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Nov 6, 2006 03:59 AM

West Side Lounge--still good?

My husband and I used to love West Side Lounge: We thought it had good food, a relaxed atmosphere, attentive service, great cocktails, etc. However, we heard the chef left.

Is the restaurant still any good?

We are planning a rare date night and miss our old favorite....

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  1. I'd been recommending the West Side Lounge to friends for a casual night in Cambridge for years, so it's with a heavy heart that I'd say a recent visit indicated a strong downhill alert. Didn't realise that they'd actually changed chefs, but that makes a lot of sense in retrospect.

    One of the best features of WSL (besides terrific and inventive cocktails) was the way in which entrees came, bistro style, as full meals, with a good range of vegetable sides not necessarily listed on the menu. (Eg salmon or chicken with not only the formerly ubiqiuitous fancy mashed potato, but also perhaps some lightly sauteed spinach, baby carrots, or ratatouille.) This meant that one could have a full and nutritious meal without having to order appetizer salads, side dishes, etc. No more, however. Last week, I was very disappointed with a block of salmon with black olive risotto (olives not very visible), hollondaise (thin buttery sauce over everything) and vegetable chorizo ragu (hello--where?)-- essentially this dish was just a block of indifferent salmon and some gloopy rice. The portion size also seemed to have reduced, although maybe that was just the visual effect of a massive square plate. Steak frites was similarly unimaginative. Good frites and a well cooked although not tremendous quality piece of flank steak--but really not well executed enough to merit the almost $20 price tag. I think it might be difficult now to have a complete meal on just an entree each. The old WSL was always a surprising bargain, and a terrific neighborhood restaurant for a midweek dinner. But once you're going to be spending in the $50 range for dinner and a couple of glasses of wine/cocktails, there have always been better nearby options.

    If you plan to go on a week night, how about sitting in the bar at Chez Henri and ordering a mix of bar food and "proper" entrees?

    1. I don't understand--the salmon had both hollandaise and a ragu on it?

      I've liked this place in the past too...have others shared katielp's recent bad experience?

      3 Replies
      1. re: tatamagouche

        According to the menu description, which I'm looking at now, ( - also a new invention?) it was supposed to have both the ragu and the hollondaise. But, in fact, the ragu wasn't much in evidence.

        1. re: tatamagouche

          I was there about 4-6 weeks and ago and just had an app of mussels which was plentiful and good (and a great prickly pear margarita). Friend's steak special wasn't wonderful and pricier than the rest of the menu. However, I don't think <$20 for steak frites with "good frites and a well cooked steak" is that bad a deal these days.

          1. re: tatamagouche

            Sadly, yes. I've long been a big fan of West Side Lounge but a meal there last night confirmed what I've heard. We didn't recognize any of the staff, and had a light meal that was pretty blah. A bibb salad was acceptable, a bit too heavily dressed, and the calamari appetizer was too rubbery. The "asian greens" that the calamari was supposedly served with were some thin carrot slices and broad-leaf parsley. Huh?? They serve the calamari in a deep bowl, so the humidity in there softens up the later bites too, resulting in mushiness. Seeking some autumny comfort food, we then split a baked rigatoni which turned out to be regular ol' boiled-and-sauced rigatoni sprinkled with too-soft bread crumbs. The white sauce was fairly bland, with maybe a hint of sweetness from some squash blended in.

            The edge seems to be gone at West Side, the simple but very competent preparations replaced with lack of caring. A last note-- we wanted to sit at the bar, which was full, but only 1/3 of the tables were taken (at 7 pm, Thanksgiving eve). There were some long negotiations between the bartender and a disgruntled server about letting us have appetizers and drinks at a two-top...

            Anybody know what has happened there?

          2. How are the frites nowadays? In days of yore (well, maybe 6 months ago) a group of us mightily enjoyed a basket of them as an appetizer. . .

            1. I used to LOVE the frites but it's been almost a year since I've been to West Side.

              Katielp's experience is just the sort of thing I worry about.