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New Granite Bay restaurant brings more farm to the table

By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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Driving down Auburn Folsom Road just past Douglas Boulevard, it might be too easy to pass this one up.

But if you look closely, or you know where to go, an unassuming manor that once housed a French bistro, a market cafe and even a biker bar has been turned into something new and fresh.

Ian and N’Gina Kavookjian, owners of Eight, have turned the building into an American bistro, serving up fresh, local ingredients in thoughtful and approachable fashion.

The new restaurant celebrated its grand opening last week, with its namesake inspired by the number of years the owners have been working to open an establishment to call their own.

With more than 35 years combined experience in the restaurant industry, the Kavookjians say they want to blend high-quality food with a casual atmosphere that is comfortable and inviting, whether you have just spent all day out on Folsom Lake or you are taking a date out for a fine meal and a fabulous bottle of wine.

“In a lot of restaurants, it’s either casual or it is fine dining,” N’Gina Kavookjian said. “There’s no blurring of the lines, and we didn’t want to do that.”

Casual atmosphere notwithstanding, Executive Chef Robert Birnschein is preparing smart American-style fare heavily influenced by Italian and French cuisine, with a serious emphasis on farm-to-table freshness.

“We want to expose the community to the beauty and the seasonality of food,” Ian Kavookjian said. “I know there are a lot of people who are really in tune with it and there’s something great about that.”

N’Gina Kavookjian said the farm-to-table concept, which has been gaining popularity in local restaurants, is more than just a trend and the husband-and-wife team believes it is a concept that should be embraced worldwide when it comes to dining.

“It makes no sense to buy products that are not within a 50- to 100-mile radius of where you live,” N’Gina Kavookjian said.

The owners of Eight say that not only does supporting local farmers ensure they are serving up the freshest ingredients, it also puts money right back into the community, which goes a long way to support the local economy.

“If we buy tomatoes from Mexico, that helps their economy, which is all fine and good,” N’Gina Kavookjian said. “But I can’t sit there and watch my neighbor who sells tomatoes suffer when I could be buying from him. It’s that sense of community that people need to get back to.”

What about the food?

Lunches at Eight range from appetizers and salads to sandwiches and handmade pastas, with prices ranging from $7 to $22.

Everything down to the ketchup and mayonnaise is made in-house from scratch.

Look for a grilled cheese sandwich with fontina cheese, white truffle butter and fresh tomato puree on the lunch menu.

There is also a mixed baby lettuce salad with candied walnuts, currants, goat cheese and honey mustard vinaigrette.

Other lunch items include baked orrecchiette pasta with house-made sausage, Swiss chard, roma tomato, poultry crème sauce and bread crumbs; or the spaghetti carbonara with house-cured lamb bacon, fava beans, farm-fresh egg and pecorino cheese.

“We have a neighbor with a chicken farm and we use their eggs for the carbonara,” N’Gina Kavookjian said. “We are keeping it local, keeping it fresh.”

The handmade pastas are available on both the lunch and dinner menus.

Dinner menu items include pan-roasted Scottish salmon with potato and corn hash, applewood bacon, summer gypsy peppers, smoked tomato sauce and basil oil.

Or there is the grilled lamb T-bones with baby artichokes, creamy white bean and leak ragu with a balsamic mint glaze.

Dinner menu items start with appetizers at $7 and entrees averaging between $20 and $30.

Ian Kavookjian said the restaurant was very competitive in its pricing, especially with regards to the wine list, which is more focused on quality rather than quantity.

“We always love when you can go somewhere and get a great glass of wine for a great price,” Ian Kavookjian said. “So we were really aggressive with that.”

The building

Walking into the newly remodeled restaurant, you will immediately notice the open kitchen and café tables in the dining room to the right.

A patio is decorated out back with a large water fountain, a wood-burning pizza oven and plenty of tables under a canopy of white lights for those who wish to enjoy the outdoors.

In back of the main dining room, a 1,600-square-foot banquet room and cold kitchen is available for private events.

Ian and N’Gina Kavookjian have been operating a catering and wedding planning business since 2009 and say they chose to open their brick-and-mortar restaurant in Granite Bay because of the central location to the Sacramento valley and the Sierra foothills.

“This is such a beautiful piece of property,” N’Gina Kavookjian said. “It’s just got a great vibe to it. I feel relaxed here.”

Toby Lewis can be reached at tobyl@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TobyLewis_RsvPT.

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Who: Eight

What: American bistro with Italian and French inspired fare

Where: 8230 Auburn Folsom Road, Granite Bay

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday; Closed Sunday and Monday

Info: (916) 676-2605, www.eightgranitebay.com