Thursday, April 2, 2015

Public School 818 (Sherman Oaks, CA)

by guest blogger @iam_robot

Every now and then we get nostalgic about school days – the carefree phase in our life, the days we found best friends for life, the naught and nonsense we committed to gain notoriety, and the many times we got caught staring our secret crushes’ (no matter how swift we were). I was lucky to be in the same school from kindergarten through high school, I always thought school was my second home.
And this is what Bob Spivak, President & CEO of Daily Grill, had in mind when he opened the first Public School a few years ago – to relive some of the best days of our life and make Public School your home away from home. 
Whether it’s the menu designed as a composition book, cocktail napkins that look like lined college-rule notebook paper, the desk lamps on dining tables, or the cosine wall mural - Public School definitely elicits that nostalgic memory of a classroom.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of checking out the latest Public School chain in Sherman Oaks. Taking over the former Sisley Italian Kitchen spot at Sepulveda and Ventura, Public School 818 will be a full service restaurant/ bar that delivers “An Education in the Art of Food and Beer”. 
PS Cocktail Yellow
The menu is diversely American with its international influences, seasonal offerings, local flare and current trends. Naturally, drinks selection is pretty eclectic, including 20 – 30 taps of craft beers along with modern cocktails served up with house-made syrups and fresh squeezed juices. For pre-dinner cocktails, I had the Duck Thunder (watermelon, St. Germaine, Aylesbury Duck vodka) and Yellow Smoke (Fresh Pineapple Juice, serrano agave, El Silencio mezcal). Both were refreshing without being overly fruity or sweet.
Remember how cafeteria food was cheap and tasteless? That’s not the case here! They have Happy Hour Menu called as “Recess”, from Monday to Friday 4 – 7 pm, and you’re getting a bargain. With a price range of $4 - $7, Executive Chef Phil Kastel (formerly of Hillstone Restaurant Group in Newport Beach) is serving up international flavors – Crispy Ahi Tuna Tacos, Adobo Tacos, Dip Duo (hummus & baba ganoush), Margherita Pizza or an American quintessential like PB&J sliders or 3 mini cheeseburgers. I loved their Eggs & Speck ($5) – deviled eggs with crispy prosciutto. Prosciutto’s crispiness was superb and had the right amount of saltiness. As far as drinks go, beers go for $4 - $5, well drinks at $5, and “Dean’s List” half liter wines priced at $10 or $15.
Moving along to the dinner menu, I thought there were many interesting options. I had the chance to try their Fiery Calamari, Bacon Cheddar Tots and the Jidori Chicken & Green Chili Cornbread Waffles. If my stomach were bottomless, I’d probably try their Shrimp & White Cheddar Grits, Dragoons Irish Stout Short Rib, and the Colorado Lamb Burger. A second visit is due SOON! Nevertheless, what I had was really good. 
The Fiery Calamari had a good crunch while the togarashi dusting adds an interchange flavor of spicy and salty. I also appreciated how the crust was light and thin, just a graceful transition to bite into the supple cuts of the squid. The person sitting next to me was flabbergasted on how I finished a whole basket of calamari before dinner started – yes those fritters with garlic aioli was just that GOOD.  

For the main dish, I had the Fried Jidori Chicken & Green Chili Cornbread Waffles with red eyed gravy, Louisiana hot sauce and maple syrup. 
I thought the fried chicken here was well-spiced, with a good crunch on the skin. It has hints of sweetness and heat. I don’t know about you but I still prefer my fried chicken on the moist side – I wished these chickens weren’t so dry. Luckily, the homemade gravy saved the day! Gravy was hearty – thick in texture, beefy, buttery and very flavorful. As far as the waffle, I thought it was spot on – crisp, light, satisfying. I liked how I could still taste the buttery goodness of the waffle without getting swayed into the sugary sweetness of the maple syrup.

Finally, for dessert, I had the Nutella Cookie Sandwich – bacon brittle, chocolate chunk cookies, and vanilla bean ice cream. 
It was rich, hearty, and out of this world. I could only eat half of these. I wished I started dinner with sweets. Future diners, I’d recommend you get this sandwich before any appetizer or main course. Cookies were thick, chewy, buttery, and exploding with chocolates – I loved it! The bottom cookie was smothered with Nutella – Chunks and Nutella – these are what Chocolate dreams are made of. Then, in between the cookies, you have a big scoop of vanilla ice cream drenched with bacon bits – trust me, this is easily one of the best desserts I had in years.

All in all, I thought Public School 818 is probably my new favorite gastropub in the Valley. It’s definitely one of those places where you can pop in for a quick drink with friends without compromising on food quality. It is evident in the menu and drink selections that Public School cares to curate the best and explore with interesting ingredients. I do wish they have a more expansive dessert menu, though. Tidbit aside, I can honestly say I can’t wait to go back to school. 

Public School 818
15300 Ventura Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 91403
(818) 728-9818
Public School 818 on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: this visit was hosted


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