Redwood City - new Gastropub Martins West - any reports?
- osho May 10, 2009 06:47 PM
A brand new gastro pub has opened in the old Alhambra theatre location in downtown Redwood City.
Apparently modeled after the gastro pub trend from across the pond - seems to have a Scottish bent to the idea though.
Here's the website ...
They have three different menus - lunch, mid-day and dinner.
Read some griping on the *other* website about them still not having their alcohol licence.
Any reports from 'hounds in the area about the food ?
831 Main Street, Redwood City, CA 94063
They opened without their liqour license. They told us it'd be a few weeks. Will be trying them a few times after that so we can get the full experience.
I so applaud the owners for taking the risk of opening this place in RWC, especially at this time. Maybe Main Street will become a destination. Went by last Thursday, and may have been served the first meal produced by their kitchen--marrow bones and a charcuterie plate which included pate', terrine, and a rabbit rillete. I'm not sure what a gastropub is, exactly, but they seem to have lofty aspirations--a menu scattered with things like nettles and ramps. They have done a fantastic renovation and the woodwork alone is worth a trip by.
re: Melanie Wong
Melanie, I have never eaten marrow before and so have no basis for comparison. The tripod of bones arrived with toasted baguette. I'm not a good sharer under almost any circumstance and there was barely enough good stuff to go around. The marrow tasted as good as a fatty steak smells on the grill. Yummy, though i expect even bad marrow falls into that category.
The charcuterie was not noteworthy and included no coldcuts, though the housemade mustard and pickled golden beet and infant carrot were tasty and certainly made for good presentation.
The two appetizers with two sodas and tip came to almost $50.00.
After reading about their opening in the Merc, decided to try it out Saturday. Though a bit dark, the space is nicely done with exposed brick interior, wood floor, & wood columns. As you enter, bar is aligned to the right with lots of bar tables in the spacious area to the left. We were escorted to the back area for dinner seating. I don't know if the metal chairs (with seat cushions) are permanent, but they seemed quite light/flimsy in contrast to the tables. On second thought, must be permanent as the matching bar stools w/ backs were in the front room.
To start off, we were offered complimentary tap or sparkling water; we chose the latter. Soon, they brought two types of bread with butter. Soda, with bacon & scallions & wheat with olives, I think. They were both good but we loved the soda which had a nice crisp, buttery crust. BTW, our server did not inform us there was bacon in it (bits & remember its dark?) but lucky for us this was not an issue.
We just ordered one app of the house made country duck pate with thinly sliced toasted baguette - slightly dense/crumbly texture vs. smooth & spreadable. This was just okay, but we liked the crisp pickled vegetables that came with it. During this course, member of waitstaff refilled our water glasses but much to my dismay, with still water & placed the bottle on our table (they use monogramed milk bottles).
For the mains, dh ordered mushroom grilled wagyu beef, dd ordered the fish & chips & lastly I had the roasted beet & grapefruit salad. I don't see it on the online menu now, but for some reason I thought the beef had clams so I didn't taste (shellfish allergy). I'll blame the lighting for not seeing menu properly :) DH said he enjoyed his meal; I thought it looked a bit on the small side but he said it was fine with 4 or 5 slices of beef. The fish was coated in a light batter but was not as crispy as I would have liked; was also a bit greasy. Fries were med. cut & were decent. The roasted beet & grapefruit salad was sprinkled with goat cheese & accompanied by a number of thin parmesan biscotti. It was presented on a narrow, rectangular plate, as one would serve a trio of something. I felt uncomfortable as if salad were going to spill over as I ate. Having never had roasted beets before, don't know what they should taste like but did feel as though these little chunks didn't really have a "roasted" flavor. Also, salad had only two or three grapefruit slices which was disappointing, lots of biscotti though. Don't think the biscotti worked with this salad but overall it was not bad.
For the finale, we ordered the chocolate "rilletes" with heather ice cream & brioche squares. Server said heather was an herb I think. The chocolate, with bits of oatmealy flakes (she said cross between rice crispies & something else) abundantly served in a mason jar, was too dense to spread easily on the toast points. The ice cream, already melting as it was served, was not enough for the overpowering chocolate. Server offered us more brioche (we declined) but what we really needed was more ice cream, which she did not offer. Just read review on yelp today where someone took the offer but noticed a $2 charge on bill. I had a feeling...
Will I return? Probably, after they get their liquor license, but not in a rush. Funny, on the drive back home, I did use the term "lofty ambition" considering entrees in high 20's given location, economy, etc.
Martin West is new and gorgeously designed so I'll get out the bad points of my visit. I came here after seeing the drool worthy pic from Melaine Wong's flickr set. I was first to arrive at the empty restaurant when we were seated at a small two top I asked for a bigger table, no big deal... but when 3-4 two tops arrive after me and none of them are even asked to sit at a two top infuriates me.
MW also stated tabla is offered with coffee but my bluebottle latte was lonely. The fish and chips dish was a real disappointment on a couple of factors. YES it's deep fried but blotting it on a towel for a few seconds after the fryer would make the fish sing. The dish includes 3 pieces but 2 of the pieces were stuck together during the frying process. If it was a dish of many small fried fish it wouldn't be so annoying but it was only 3 pieces. I thought the cook should have noticed this when he was plating the dish, obviously he didn't care. The batter crumbled apart as I took a bite. The homemade tarter sauce is delicious. I did mention that we didn't like the fish and chips and they sent us a dessert on the house and asked what we didn't like about the fish.
The server was very friendly and attentive but somewhat clueless about the menu as she couldn't tell me much when I asked her questions. I asked her about the pot of pickles and she didn't tell us they accompanied a lot of our dishes so I was "pickled" overload. We were also not offered soda bread like MW's pictures, maybe they didn't have any that today.
The duck mousse $6 was a good portion and tasty with some citrus tones it is not served with dijon mustard so we asked for some. Pheasant and leek banger needed more of the puree fava bean mash since it was a little dry.
The organic burger, scottish eggs and toffee pudding were really good. The scottish egg was fried to a golden color with the yolk still runny; $6 for 3 pieces. The organic burger is very juicy and "beefy" flavored, I also liked the bun as it was substantial and not flimsy. The space is beautiful but too dim even for lunch time. I may return once they work out the kinks.
Lunch with 2 lattes, duck mousse, pot of pickles, scottish egg, burger, fish and chips, pheasant and leek banger cost $65 not including tip.
My brother wanted to try out Martins West, and I joined him there two weeks ago. It’s around the corner from Grocery Outlet, making a good two-fer destination.
At 6:30pm, there were only two other people in the place. The hostess welcomed us, explaining that no alcohol could be served yet and that this was still the soft opening period. We chose to sit in the lounge area by the bar in the front of the restaurant. Later William would comment that we’d done them a favor by sitting within view of passersby so it wouldn’t look so empty. The tall table was made of a screen salvaged from Bali and decorated with colorful beer coasters under glass. When we asked the hostess about the provenance of the various woods employed in the décor, she brought us a notebook with photographs and descriptions of the sources that we studied between courses.
We ordered several of the snacks and small plates, and no entrees, to have greater variety of tastes. We wanted to put together more of a pub grub type meal. Before I talk about the food, I gotta pay some kudos to the music program here. The Police, Deep Purple, Del Amitri, Eric Clapton, Jethro Tull . . . we were treated to Britain’s rock stars. Also, it’s piped into the rest rooms, so you don’t have to miss a beat.
In the order of service, we tried the following:
Scottish eggs, $6 – Our favorite item was the first one out of the gate. Three to an order, they’re made with little quail eggs encased in sausage and crumbs, then deep-fried. Crispy coating and a runny, rich yolk inside made for heaven in each bite. The fennel-scented and highly seasoned sausage was quite delicious and we wished we could have these for breakfast every day.
Herb-crusted marrow bones, $8 - Luckily, these fell into the “good” marrow category. However, only one of the beef bones was what I’d consider a normal portion. The two other bones were quite shallow with less than a half-teaspoonful of marrow to be scraped from either one. Nice toast made with very thin slices of baguette, offering just enough physical support to carry the marrow to the mouth. The salad of fine slivers of kumquat and red onion provided a refreshing bite and welcome counterpoint to balance the richness. The whole leaf parsley was a little hard to work through; a small proportion freshly minced to release the green fragrance could have made this dish soar. William saw the photo and thought the dish looks to be a display of garlic bread. (g)
Pheasant and leek banger with broad bean mash, $9 – Studying the online menu ahead of time, this was the dish I was most interested in trying. Before ordering, I confirmed with our waitress that the fava beans (aka broad beans) were fresh. She said this was her favorite on the menu and made with fresh favas, so it was a go. William and I split on this. He said it was “dry and too bland”. I felt that the leeks in the banger helped retain moisture, but I found the texture of the meat grainy and almost gritty. The pheasant is naturally lean and this needed more fat for a more satisfying texture. I liked the taste, but admittedly, it is mild. The fava mash was a bit too stiff but satisfied the spring fava craving. This dish did not show well coming after the salty and highly seasoned eggs, then the richness of the marrow bones. I cleared my palate with some bread and a sip of water to retaste it to trying to decide how I felt about this one. William tried it again after some bread and said it was better but he wouldn’t reorder. Few patrons are going to do that, maybe the kitchen should think about coursing this early in service before the more robust items.
Wild Gulf shrimp with mushy peas, $11 – Before ordering this dish, I asked for a sample taste of the “British barbecue sauce”. Like the other condiments here, it’s housemade. My first scent of it was pretty much the aroma of Worcestershire sauce. We learned that it is Martins West’s riff on H P Sauce, incorporating some secret spices and a rich meatiness from beef stock, as well as Worcestershire. We liked the sauce, so went ahead and ordered. But unfortunately, this turned out to be the clunker of the meal. The shrimp were translucent and hardly cooked, plus I found them to be less than fresh in aroma and flavor. Such a shame, as I was looking forward to the extra sweetness and intensity of wild shrimp. The mushy peas were delicious, a combo of mashed and some whole fresh peas. The raw pea sprouts on top tasted better and were less chewy once wilted. The sauce clashed with the delicate elements of this dish to my palate. If I were someone who avoids red meat, I’d be upset to not be informed that this seafood dish has beef in it. Again, this fresh take on mushy peas was great, and I’d order them alone as a side dish.
Potato crisps, $3 – Loved these! Very crackly, ultra-thin chips with good potato-y flavor, and slightly sweet besides being well-salted. Great bar food.
Cock-a-leekie soup, $7 – When this bowl appeared, I couldn’t help but think of a noodle-less pho ga with the fine shavings of leeks, white onions, and scallions bobbing on the relatively greaseless surface and the tender shreds of skinless breast meat. Darker in color than pho ga, perhaps from the brownish nettles, this version of cock-a-leekie shared the same studied simplicity of direct chicken goodness and comfort. The soup was notably less salty than our other dishes and served to wash away some of the salinity and richness of this meal. William said it was fine, but he wouldn’t order it again. I liked it as a palate cleanser.
Herb-crusted haggis, $9 – We saw this on the menu as a side to one of the entrée plates and asked if we could try it solo. Sure, they’re anxious for folks to give it a try. No sheep’s stomachs available here, so the haggis is stuffed into beef middles instead. This version was far meatier and richer in flavor with little or none of the oatmeal filler both of us remembered from a visit to Edinburgh in our teens. No beef lung available either for the classic filling, this one is made with heart, liver, sweetbreads, kidney, and probably more organs and other parts that I’m forgetting. The haggis is cooked at 150 degrees sous vide, then pieces are crusted and browned to heat for service. William liked this a lot, for me, it was interesting to taste but too strong in offal-ness for me.
Sticky toffee pudding, $8 – Martin West’s take on the classic is another people pleaser. The moist and spongey steamed cake was shot through with nuts and dried fruit bits. A layer of toasted nuts, a topper of browned butter ice cream, a puddle of warm brandy toffee sauce, and our favorite part, the piece of puffed toffee that’s actually honeycomb candy.
Tabla – Seeing how much we enjoyed the honeycomb crunch of the sticky toffee pudding, we were offered a taste of tabla. We didn’t order after-dinner coffee, but this usually accompanies it. A gritty, molasses flavored, rustic brown sugar confection, this is meant for anyone who likes carmelized sweets.
I’m ready to go back once the alcohol starts flowing to experience more of a pub atmosphere. We talked with the GM quite a bit, and there seems to be a deliberate effort to keep things non-rowdy and sedate, e.g., modest TV screens, no darts.
Our tab with tax and before tip was $67. We felt that was quite reasonable for the type of ingredients, quantity, and overall quality of execution. We didn’t order any beverages and had more than enough to eat with some to go home. I’ll bet my brother’s the only one at his office to have haggis leftovers for lunch.
Martins West photos
The restaurant's blog entry for June 11 says, "9:36pm, ending the night at Martins West. No emails, decided to check out our status…for the first time in three months…ACTIVE!! We finally have it! Expect to see you all tomorrow. Would love to give you more details, but what else do you need to know, we will be serving alcohol with the fabulous food and will tell you all about it when I see you. We are busy unloading booze."