After hearing good things about the latest addition to the dining scene in Toluca Lake, I checked this place out this week and was generally, underwhelmed. The wine list was decent sized for a small-ish restaurant but this is supposed to be a wine & tapas bar. IMO, it isn't either. It is an amateurish attempt to be all things to some people. Part club (music playing WAY TOO LOUD), part wine bar to the uninformed and/or unintersted masses and part restaurant, though one that happens to be a mid-range SFV restaurant whose ambition clearly outstrips its abilities.
The food: I only sampled two dishes, both were okay, I suppose. Is it just me or is it wrong to call small plates tapas? My, perhaps limited, understanding is that while tapas are small plates, small plates are not always tapas.
First dish was "prawns" (read shrimp) served with a port wine reduction and pomegranate. The sauce was good enough, no real artistry, just some port and butter cooked down and plated with slightly over-done shrimp.
Next dish was a bordering on below-average snapper with yellow and red beets. The snapper was excessively fishy and the beets were sliced inelegantly, of varying thickness with no real accompaniment other than a splash of herbed oil.
One nice thing I do have to say is that our server was both gracious and competent.
The wine: as I stated above, the wine list is of limited quantity and scope. Frankly, I don't mind a small selection, as long as it is artfully chosen. This list is full of bottles that are easy enough to find at your local wine, big-box or even grocery store.
I ordered a Ken Brown Pinot Noir but the server informed me they were out. I had to go down a price point to THE ONLY OTHER PINOT on the menu. It wasn't just my chosen varietal that was lacking though, they had a few cabs & chards, a malbec, a viognier, two syrahs, one or maybe two merlot and I think, four ports - I am forgetting a few choices but honestly, that is pretty much it. One of the choices for sparkling wine was Cordoniu, to which I say, if I want to drink low-end cava, I'll go buy it at Von's.
Actually, the more I think about this place the more woefully inadequate I find it. For example, they have so-called "wine lockers" against the wall. No climate control, open air, mesh fronts, like really old gym-lockers.
The music: did I mention that it is overbearingly loud?
So, I say to you, proprieters of Eight-18, just because I live in the 818, doesn't mean that I know nothing about wine and food. IMO, the East Valley/Toluca area doesn't need yet another mediocre restaurant. However, since your establishment is doing a bang-up business, I suppose that there are a lot of people to whom, you are providing a valuable service, it just isn't one I, particularly, need.
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