Table 8 has transformed into 8 Oz Burger Bar, still by Govind Armstrong. The menu and vibe are now much more casual, but still has the Chorizo Stuffed Olives and of course, the Short Rib Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
7661 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
There are girls who cry at the drop of a $95 Juicy Couture straw sun hat. They dab their waterproof-mascara’d eyes for every episode of Oprah. They weep as they flip the pages of a tragic romance novel. They sob during movies, not just in the privacy of their own homes, but in the theatre. When it’s a romantic comedy.
That’s how they are.
That’s how “those” girls are.
At one point in my life, I was one of “those” girls. In high school, there wasn’t a week that would go by that one night I wasn’t sitting on the floor in my pitch dark room, windows flung open to the night sky, flooding my face with tiny briny tears while listening to my manually engineered version of “repeat” on a cassette, U2’s With or Without You recorded over and over in succession on one side, and George Michael’s Father Figure on the other.
Let’s just ignore the twisted teenage psychology surrounding that maudlin scenario, particularly my song choices.
In my more recent adult life, I have not been one “those” girls. Sure, there have been moments when I have shed some tears, but it wasn’t natural. Those tears are, admittedly, part of the drama. They are controlled. They are calculated. As dramatic as I may be with multiple meltdowns a day and weekly mid-life crises (don’t ask me how a weekly mid-life crisis is possible, but trust me, it is), very rarely, if ever, do I cry as a natural result of an emotion. I don’t cry when I get to the tragic ending in books. I don’t cry during movies. I didn’t even cry when my bleeding heart was yanked out of my chest, dropped onto a polished concrete floor, shattering and scattering into ten thousand sparkling shards of crystal love and devastation that could never be unbroken. I blogged, I spewed hate, but I didn’t cry.
Okay, so I cried, but not that much.
I just don’t consider myself a weepy girl…when it comes to normal emotional things.
And food, of course, is not “normal emotional.”
Up until recently, I have wept but on two occasions over food. Once, it was the first time toro sushi melted its fatty raw fish flesh all over my tongue. I’m sure I don’t have to explain. The second time, my first taste of steak done rare reduced to me tears. I had eaten steak well-done my entire life previous, and had eaten raw beef in the form of carpaccio and marinating galbi, but never steak. It was quite a moment.
Now I can say I have cried three times over food. The grilled cheese sandwich at Table 8 in Los Angeles made me weep.
I had always wanted to try Table 8 in LA, but didn’t get the chance before the restaurant remodeled into its current incarnation. No other words are necessary to describe the vibe and atmosphere other than “dark and sexy.” The small space is divided into two even smaller spaces, a front bar/lounge area and a separate dining room. Without a reservation, we waited for a few minutes on one of the black leather sofas that are set up into separate sitting areas. Only backlit walls and candles light let you make out animal hides on the floor and enormous marbled stone cylinders as tables. It was vibe deja vu.
As is always the case when it’s available, we sat down at the compact bar. From our seats, we could see a tiny square of the action in the kitchen through a cutout against the back wall. Would he? Would I? Would I catch a glimpse of Chef Armstrong through the window? I didn’t take my eyes off the window over the far edge of my glass of sparkling wine, and only to look over the bar menu did I momentarily tear my eyes away.
Table 8′s Lounge Menu is efficient, but not simply the appetizer selection or more manageable portions of the offering in the main dining room. Kobe Beef Sliders and Fish and Chips are very much “bar food,” but with sophistication. We passed on the heavier choices, and started with Grilled Artichokes with Herbed Aioli and Fried Olives, because “deep-fried” and “stuffed with chorizo” is not heavy at all!
I love artichokes and have no problem squatting right down in the middle of my kitchen floor in privacy with a whole, steamed artichoke and tearing the whole thing apart like a vegetarian grizzly bear. However, ordering artichokes in restaurants and eating them in front of another person always makes me a little bit nervous. Without knowing the details about how the artichoke will be presented, I worry whether I will eat it “properly,” whether he will eat “it properly,” whether I will eat it properly and he will be offended because he doesn’t know how to eat it “properly.” The artichokes were charred at the edges, and taking each quarter down to the point where the fibers were flossing my teeth, I stopped overthinking and just let myself enjoy it.
If artichokes are about love, then olives are just pure vegetable attraction. I exercise very little self-control when presented with olives. Pleasantly plump, innocently covered in a sweetly lopsided crust, and garnished with fried greens (that looked suspiciously like cilantro so I avoided them), Fried Olives were worth flirtation. However, when my fork tore through the fried coating, knocked the halves and apart and exposed the obscene, grease-glittering mass of chorizo sausage so heavy it was tearing through the olive’s flesh, I lost all self-restraint. Thank God there were only four on the plate, else embarrassing myself with an artichoke would have been the least of my shame.
After the olives, the evening spirals in downward blur. It’s like the sight of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Pulled Shortribs triggered some switch in my brain. It was the oil-soaked bread that sparkled in the low atmospheric light of the lounge. It was the golden toasted surfaces broken in perfect intervals by deep, dark grill marks. It was the shredded shortribs that were trying to break free of the fetters of melted cheese. Staring at all of it on the plate, I lost all sense of reality and can’t properly place events in space and time. There was a timid bite, a tender chew, then somewhere between registering the taste and gliding out of t, I cried, had to dab my eyes with a cocktail napkin, was rendered speechless while gawking at Chef Armstrong, made a fool of myself stuttering in explanation of why I had tears in my eyes, and had him sign a copy of his new cookbook. It wasn’t one of my more poised moments.
Next time, I’ll take a hanky.