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EATS: in and around the Valley | TIDBITS

Europa Currency

Good food is the constant that sees Sherman Oaks place through change.

October 01, 1998|JUAN HOVEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The renovation of Stan Rivera's out-of-the-way Sherman Oaks place, Europa Restaurant, reaches completion in the coming weeks, but the new look isn't why you should drop in.

You should because Europa still has the same lure that caused people to jostle for reservations 15 years ago--good food. The only difference is that these days, fewer people know about it, and those who do want Europa to be their secret.

"Burger King and In-N-Out do a big business in this neighborhood now," Rivera says with a rueful laugh. "I'm still here because I'm a hands-on owner. I do everything, from cooking to cleaning up.

"I don't dwell on what once was, but on what to do about what is," he adds. "So I have music on Saturday nights, and I have a big menu so that if four people go out together all wanting something different, they can come to Europa."

Born and raised in Hawaii, Rivera worked there as a professional photographer for 20 years. Then he married, moved to Los Angeles and became a chef, working the kitchens of such places as the Universal Sheraton, the Lakeside Golf Club, the Awanee Hotel in Yosemite and Cafe Greenstreet in Los Angeles. His wife died six years ago. Rivera doesn't talk much about that, but you sense that to him, things really aren't the same now, no matter what his fans say.

"We enjoyed a great six-year run when you had to wait two months for a reservation," Rivera says, "and another eight years when you had to wait one month. Then the earthquake happened, and the aerospace industry died, and the demographics of this neighborhood totally changed.

"But I'm still here. I serve dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays, and I open up Sundays and Mondays if I get reservations.

"I call this an eclectic menu. I still serve some of the Hungarian dishes my predecessor served before I bought this place, but I also serve egg rolls and escargot and Long Island duckling and a lot of other dishes."

He does indeed. A sampling:

* Salmon poached in a court bouillon and served with a dill hollandaise;

* Crab cakes with a watercress sauce and lemon;

* Scallops and abalone with a sauce of scampi butter and almond slices;

* Wiener schnitzel with applesauce and lemon;

* Hungarian stuffed cabbage with ground veal, rice, onions, garlic, paprika and caraway seeds. The duckling goes for $14.95, but everything else on the menu sells for $12.95 or less. Some entrees--for example, chicken Dijonnaise, Hungarian goulash and lemon chicken orientale--go for $8.95.

Europa Restaurant is at 14929 Magnolia Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, (818) 501-9175.

*

From the errors and omissions department comes word that you cannot, after all, get Dandy Don Whittemore's great ice cream at Gypsy Grill in Encino--because Gypsy Grill no longer exists.

An item in this column last week noted that Whittemore's ice creams had won five gold medals at the Los Angeles County Fair, and that a number of the Valley's best restaurants serve the ice cream, including Gypsy Grill.

But partner Carlos Salazar shuttered Gypsy Grill some weeks ago, putting out the word that he would close down for a remodeling job. The place is now up for sale. Stay tuned.

Salazar will no doubt surface someplace else, as will his talented executive chef, Christian Monchatre, who departed Gypsy Grill some weeks before it closed.

On a positive note, fans of Paul Lloyd and chef Darin Eckermann will want to know that they have solved the noise problem in their popular new Sherman Oaks place, Paul's Cafe.

It cost a bundle, Lloyd says, but they covered the walls of the restaurant with padded fabric, cutting the noise level in half.

Paul's Cafe was an instant hit when it opened up earlier this summer, mainly because Eckermann serves good food--for example, pepper-crusted salmon with artichokes and wild mushrooms and a red wine sauce, roasted chicken breast with Yukon potatoes, sea bass encrusted with porcini mushrooms and served with mashed potatoes, and roasted whitefish with spinach, mashed potatoes and a lemon vinaigrette, which may well be the star item on the menu.

Paul's Cafe seats 66, so reservations are a good idea. It is at 13456 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 789-3575.

* Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at jhovey@gte.net.

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