Rave reviews from the media
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"...if you're a foodie and a lover of life, The Eclectic Wine Bar & Grille is absolutely Mecca."
"The food is fabulous, the service sensational, and the ambiance and attitude is a plus ten..."
"The Eclectic Wine Bar and Grille is a beacon of fine art and fine dining in the heart of the NoHo Arts District."
"The pastas...are generous
"The Eclectic Café would be a standout in any town - no matter what the competition."
"What's best...the fresh fish
"A must stop...delicious cuisine!"
"Pick of the Week - affordable feasts...Three stars!"
"The pasta dishes are ones any Italian restaurant in L.A. would be glad to claim as its own!"
"The light California eclectic cuisine is superb."
Back to Cool
The Eclectic Cafe has plenty of peculiar charm. It's the sort of dimly lit, oddly arty L.A. place you'd expect to see in an Alan Rudolph movie.
But that's not all there is to the story. Like Tommy Tan's Restaurant or Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popcorn, this is one of those properties where a thoughtful visitor will constantly be trying to guess why the owner has thrust himself so boldly into the spotlight - billing himself, as it were, above the title. I can't be sure, but I'll hazard the guess that Sheehan is intent on treading the path to celebrity.
You'll probably figure out who he is when you see him. Sheehan is the pleasant-looking, well-dressed fellow with reddish-blond hair and a raffish smile. At the time of my last visit, he was carrying a handsome attaché case and looked like the consummate young businessman. He's also a nice guy. When you pay the check, he might hand you a fat homemade chocolate chip cookie from an overloaded pastry tray.
If you've ever spent any time in a college town, the Eclectic Cafe will seem familiar - it brings to mind a hip campus hangout. The wall nearest the front door is faced in brick and covered with posters and notices, as if it were a makeshift bulletin board outside a student union somewhere. The tables are covered in white butcher paper, and the waiters wear black-and-white Eclectic Cafe T-shirts.
An arty campus hangout. Quirky oil paintings and a dozen or so black-and-white photographs hang in austere frames on walls painted a metallic gray. Sculptures are haphazardly placed in crannies here and there. Count on the music to be moody, soulful jazz, usually a wailing tenor sax.
This youthful attitude surfaces more than once in what comes out of the kitchen - which, to tell the truth, isn't really all that eclectic. It is eccentric, though. Subtract a couple of dishes such as chicken satay, grilled salmon Niçoise and grilled swordfish with kiwi-mango-strawberry salsa, and you're left with a modern California version of northern Italian. There a strong emphasis on pasta, risotto and pizza, framing some meat entrees: a few grilled fish, some chicken and one or two steaks.
A couple of appetizers took me right back to college days, mostly for the good. When you order stuffed mushrooms, you get five medium-sized mushroom caps with a tasty filling of spinach. Gruyere and walnuts - the sort of dish I first ate during the '60s, when it dawned on us that it was possible to cook without meat. Bruschetta eclectica isn't entirely dissimilar to the mushrooms, being mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and a subtle spinach pesto on toasted Italian bread.
The crab cakes are spongy and don't have much flavor, though the "eclectic" tartar sauce that comes with them is interesting, tinged green from herbs. Chicken satay comes with a thick, sweet Indonesian peanut sauce and is quite good.
There are a few direct hits and a few solid misses among the 20 pastas, four risottos and four pizzas on this menu. Pizzas are served on wooden planks (nice idea) and have crisp, bubbly crusts. The one I tasted, called four Caesars, was your basic four-cheese pizza with a pesto sauce base. The cheeses - mozzarella, provolone, Gorgonzola and Parmesan - work well together; the pesto sauce is pure overkill.
Eclectic shrimp risotto includes shiitake mushrooms, fat tiger shrimp, garlic and lots of Romano; too bad it's so soupy. The pasta save the day, though. I especially like the linguine salsiccia. This pasta comes with sliced Italian sausage, sautéed mixed peppers and a rich marinara sauce, making a nicely balanced dish. Other good ones are the rosemary chicken pasta and an unusual Greek-style penne with Kalamata olives, oregano, parsley, garlic and feta cheese.
Balanced is not what you'd call the kiwi-mango-strawberry salsa that comes on teh swordfish. Anyway, the swordfish itself is nice, as is the grilled ahi with soy ginger sauce (and a few sesame seeds). The roasted frilled chicken is a workmanlike version.
I'm not going to say anything as nice about the grilled New York steak, which is supposed to be served with a side of shallot-garlic demiglace. Mine came drenched in the stuff.
For dessert, you might try the best tiramisu I have tasted in recent months, the excellent chocolate crème brûlée, the cakey chocolate brownie or the gummy chocolate cheesecake, among others. But pass on the gluey carrot cake, no matter how inviting it looks. It's impossibly sugary, and took me back to my days in a food co-op. Take home a cookie or two instead.
© 2011 The Eclectic — Restaurant · Bar · Lounge
5156 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, California 91601 - 818.760.2233