Monday, March 9, 2015

Where to Eat: The Grand Opening @ Public School 818

The Eats: American classics, with a creative twist

The Location: Sherman Oaks (The Valley)

The Vibes: Casual, bar scene

Good for: Large groups, dates, alone

The $ Factor: $7-$14 for appetizers; $5-$17 for soups and salads; $13-$25 for entrées and burgers; $10-$13 for pizzas

The Names behind the scenes: Chef Phil Kastel

The 4-1-1: Grill Concepts, the company behind Public School 818, has opened a slew of restaurants, including the L.A. staple, Daily Grill and the Public School restaurant collection: the original Public School 612 in downtown L.A., Public School 310 in Culver City, Public School 805 in Westlake Village and the recently opened Public School 214 in Dallas. Stay tuned for a Public School in Vegas coming soon.

Parking Situation: Valet

I’ll Be Back…: For pretty much everything on the menu!

The Public School restaurant collection is adding to its portfolio!

Taking over the former Sisley restaurant location on the intersection of Sepulveda and Ventura Blvds., Public School 818 opens in Sherman Oaks, as of Monday, March 9.

Like other Public School locations, Public School 818 is a gastropub with a heavy emphasis on beers and savory foods, and a décor that plays up the school theme. There’s varsity jackets lined up at the entrance, a map with local San Fernando Valley high school logos and larger-than-life flash cards posted onto the walls. There’s even a beer bong table, which, you can actually play.

Public School 818 will feature many of the beloved dishes found at other Public Schools — like the Bacon Cheddar Tots — and a menu that changes every three to four months. But, this Sherman Oaks spot will also feature several items exclusive to this location, such as the Lemon Meringue dessert and a killer Shrimp and Grits entrée that was created by one of Public School 818’s chefs.

Here’s a look at a few selections that will be on the inaugural Public School 818 menu, that I tried at a media dinner, held in the week prior to its opening:

For the Table… (appetizers)
The Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower, accompanied by bleu cheese Aioli and Frank's buffalo, is like eating the vegetarian version of buffalo chicken wings. Piping hot cauliflower is wrapped in a very thin fried layer. It’s a completely unusual yet fun way to eat cauliflower!

Served cold, the Crispy Ahi Tuna Tacos include a colorful blend of raw tuna, jimaca avocado salsa, ponzu and lemon aioli, all wrapped in a crispy wonton shell.

Kale, sea salt & vinegar chips, chorizo sausage and mac & cheese may not *sound* like they’d taste good eaten simultaneously, but leave it to Public School to prove that they do. The Chorizo Mac & Cheese was one of my favorite dishes of the night, with a creamy blend of noodles, Swiss Emmental cheese and cooked kale, mixed with wedges of chorizo sausage. It's rich in flavors and so filling. A great appetizer to share (or not to share and keep all to yourself!), or even to have as an entrée.

**Other appetizers on the menu include: Fiery Calamari, Bacon Cheddar Tots and three other options.

Soup & Salads…
The Kale Caesar is a twist on the traditional Caesar salad. There are the typical components — romaine lettuce, croutons, grated Parmesan cheese and creamy Caesar dressing — but there’s also kale, and, a spicy kick: subtle hints of wasabi. Roasted Chicken or Pan Seared Salmon can be added.

**Six salads and one soup on the menu.

Hand Tossed Pizza…
Chef Phil Kastel described the Fig & Prosciutto pizza as a charcuterie board on a pizza. It’s artisanal, with a paper thin crust and ingredients that compliment one another nicely: Gorgonzola and provolone cheeses, thin slices of prosciutto and herbs, which add an earthy taste.

**Other pizzas include the Margherita, Wild Mushroom & Taleggio and the House Pepperoni.

Plates… (entrées)
The Shrimp & White Cheddar Grits came highly recommended by multiple people, so we definitely had to order this. And, we were not disappointed! A thick patty of grits sits underneath bacon and shrimp, served in a cheesy, butter broth. There's also quite a few veggies mixed in: cooked greens, bright red tomatoes and grilled sweet yellow corn.

The Fried Jidori Chicken & Green Chili Cornbread Waffles is another dish that was highly recommended to us. It’s a monstrosity of three fried chicken pieces on top of a thick, fluffy savory waffle. On weekends (or if you just ask on any given day), it comes with a fried egg on top.

**Ten entrées and three burgers available.

The Brown Bag Fries literally come in a brown bag and are the way that fries should be: thin, crispy and perfect for sharing. Nice finishes include the accompanying mustard BBQ sauce and Sriracha ketchup.

The Shaved Brussels & Kale Slaw, is like coleslaw with a slightly spicy kick. It's light and tangy, with bleu cheese crumbles and onions generously mixed in with raw kale and crunchy slices of Brussels sprouts.

**The Grilled Broccolini and Gigante Bean & Greens with shaved Parmesan are two other options as well. 

The Nutella Cookie Sandwich is the king of ice cream sandwiches! Nutella is generously slathered onto two decadently rich chocolate chip cookies, that have vanilla bean ice cream with bacon bits on its perimeter, mashed in between the cookies.

**The Lemon Meringue and a special chef’s selection are two other desserts. 

The original Public School 612 in downtown, which will actually be closing briefly for a new revamp, has always been a great place for me to get together with a large group of friends, kick back some really good food and also chug some beer and craft cocktails. So, I’m excited to see Public Schools continuing to branch out and bring its fantastic experience to other local neighborhoods — like The Valley.

See you at Public School 818 soon!

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