Today marks the opening of JOEY Woodland Hills, and considering Woodland Hills has been a huge part of my life since I moved to nearby West Hills in 1982, my expectations for the restaurant were high yet tempered. I was one of local media members invited to Thursday evening’s preview party, and I was thankfully not disappointed.
JOEY Woodland Hills is part of a chain that started in 1992, and their simple motto is to “get it right the first time.” It’s an ambitious goal that’s hard to accomplish (I’m of the “if at first you don’t succeed, try a million times” school), but from the get go I was impressed by JOEY’s utilization of space.
If you’re driving up and down Topanga Boulevard, JOEY Woodland Hills sticks out like a sore thumb in the Village. Basically, if you haven’t seen it, your head is pretty much in the clouds. Such a noticeable exterior was initially intimidating for me, as I’m more of the tucked away in a little corner restaurant/bar kind of guy.
The great news behind JOEY Woodland Hills is that it’s a three in one kind of experience. With all that aforementioned space at its disposal, JOEY can function as standalone bar in one section of the restaurant while families or friends craving for a fine dining experience can luxuriate right in the middle area of the establishment. For people craving a little fresh air (as fresh as you can get if you live in SoCal), there’s also a cozy, outdoor area where you can drink and eat to your heart’s content while watching all those “Village” people pass you by.
Guests at the media preview party were served a plethora of samples (or what I like to call mini-bites) from Chef Chris Mills‘ diverse menu. During the course of the evening, I tried the 500 Salad (organic red quinoa, watermelon radish, raw vegetables, wheat berries, almond & avocado), pork dumplings, hamburger sliders, grilled Spanish octopus, Korean fried cauliflower, and Hibachi chicken wings. Since I’m just a regular average Joe from the Valley and not Jonathan Gold, I’ll simply say that each morsel of food was downright delectable. Granted, elevating hamburger sliders to another tier is downright impossible (it was still tasty!), but if you want something with a strong and memorable flavor profile, I’d give the Spanish octopus a shot.
Kudos also goes to the staff at JOEY Woodland Hills as they, though I’m sure overworked, made the media members feel right at home. As a myriad servers came to our table (I was in the company of fellow writers Michael Lee and Chase Phillips) with food and beverages, they were always eager to answer our questions and even laughed at my inane and innocuous banter. They all seemed happy to be there, and that attitude contributed to the night’s relaxed vibe.
It’s amazing that this is the first JOEY to open in Los Angeles, and of all the locations in California, they chose the suburban stomping grounds of Woodland Hills! The city, throughout the years, has been a mixture of high end, suburban living (anyone remember The Promenade Mall at its apex??) but thanks to the influx of condos and apartments in the area, a gradual nightlife has emerged. JOEY is a place that would have fit snugly into some high rise building in Downtown Los Angeles or even Old Town Pasadena, and putting it right smack dab in the middle of a nascent “Village” seems like a gamble.
Last night was my first time in The Village, as I’m one of those old San Fernando Valley residents that’s resistant to change (I still vainly cling to the memory of The Topanga Theatre and the adjacent and long abandoned miniature golf course which now houses the Village). But they say change is good, and considering JOEY Woodland Hills is a sleek, unpretentious mix of fine dining and bar life, it should have staying power (and maybe bring a little juice) to the neighborhood.
If you head out to JOEY Woodland Hills, I’d love to hear what you think of the establishment, right down from its decor to its service. Media preview nights usually show the best of what a restaurant has to offer, and I’m anxious to see if they continue to live up to their self-imposed high standards.
For more info on JOEY Woodland Hills, go to joeyrestaurants.com.
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