Westside Tavern -- a resounding success
Full write-up with pictures:
Summary: I brought my in-laws to Westside Tavern last Saturday and everyone had nothing but high praises for the food, service, and the overall experience. The scene was bustling, busy, with everyone talking and having a good night out on the town. The long wooden bar is gorgeous and just might be the 8th wonder of the world if it were any longer. No reservations accepted and I argue that's a good move in an effort to help reel in the movie patrons just filing out of the latest blockbuster. Dish-town cloth napkins were a nice touch -- almost reminded me of those shop towels you can get at Costco. So how about the food? Let's see:
Spit-roasted chicken: absolutely delicious. The most flavorful and moist chicken I've had in recent times. The sweet mustard sauce provided was a nice compliment, but honestly the chicken had enough flavor on its own.
Duck conft with figs -- very tasty though not as moist as I would have liked, and it was slightly overcooked in my opinion, but otherwise this was well received by the table. Provided figs were nicely prepared.
Flat-iron steak with sea-salted fries. Perfectly cooked to a medium-rare and the sauce brought the overall taste to another level. The fries were ok and could have been crispier.
Day-boat scallops with potatoes and corn: I think this dish was $22 and it was probably the bargain of the night. Scallops were seared nicely with great color and texture--they retained that fresh out-of-the-ocean taste.
Salmon -- ok so the person who ordered this did not share so I can't comment (long story--read the blog comments), but I did hear phrases like "moist" and "nicely cooked"
Heirloom tomatoes: 1/2" thick slabs of wonderfully fresh tasting tomatoes drizzled with vinegar. Nicely done.
I know this place is known for their warm sticky toffee cake, but we had birthday cake back at the house so we'll have to try on another visit.
The overall service was excellent, the food came out in a reasonable time and all at the same time, and the drink selections (Moscow Mule, Pinot Noir, Syrah, several beers) were very good and reasonable priced. This place is an obvious do-over.
Thanks for the excellent, comprehensive report. WT is a decided plus for the west LA area, filling that intermediate niche between low end and high end dining very nicely (and that photo of the heirloom tomatoes had my drool factory in high gear - nice food porn pic).
Did they give you complimentary bread/butter? We didn't get any when we went last weekend, and my sister even asked if they served bread to start (the waitress replied, "you can get the flatbread pizza"). A little peeved now, if they do serve complimentary bread and did not give us any...
I did really like the restaurant though, and the mozzarella flatbread and peach crisp were stars. I agree about the drinks being a bit "weak" - but very good though.
I love this place. I've been 5 times now and have been very pleased every time. Save one bad waitress, my experiences with service have been pleasant to very good. And I like the bartenders (I've had drinks at the bar every time, waiting for a table, and dines at the bar twice) and the drinks they mix. The flatbread is a terrific way to start; I don't think they serve bread unless you ask. I agree the chicken is out of this world, but everything friends of mine and I have tried has been very, very good. It's a great neighborhood type place on a larger scale, but it does not seem too huge or overwhelming. It is just a fun place to be.
My first trip to the Westside Tavern came with high expectations and I must say: the restaurant lived up to them.
My wife and I had the following:
1) Baby Artichoke, Smoked Mozzarella, Roasted Tomatoes, Wild Arugala Flatbread
2) Butternut Squash soup w/ Granny Smith Apples, Almonds, Pumpkin Oil
3) Day Boat Scallops served on a Butternut Squash Risotto
4) Lamb French Dip sandwich w/ fries
5) Cinnamon Sugar Donuts w/ Raspberry Coulis and Chocolate Sauce
The flatbread was delicious - a beautiful meld of different flavors. The smoked mozzarella hits you first, followed closely by the sweetness of the tomatoes and the faint bite of the arugula. I usually find flatbread to be a weak substitute for pizza but in this case, the thin, crispness of the flatbread made for a nice texture with the softness of the ingredients. My only tiny complaint is that they cut the flatbread into long, thin triangles that basically sag/break in the middle b/c of the weight of the toppings.
The butternut squash soup was good - rich, creamy and the perfect early fall appetizer. I did like the almonds though found the apple bits a tad too tart; my wife liked that contrast in flavors though.
Her scallops were done very nicely - cooked and seasoned well. The risotto was rather undistinguished. Wasn't bad but not memorable either. I'm assuming they didn't want something that would overpower the subtle flavors of the scallops but this was possibly too neutral.
I liked my lamb dip; maybe it's because I was nursing a cold but this felt like comfort food to me - something about biting through a soft roll and into the thinly sliced lamb, soaked in jus, was reassuring and nourishing. The fries were good but too short to my liking. It's hard to get at those smaller fries without stabbing a fork through 'em.
Dessert might have been the best part of an already good meal: it's hard to mess up freshly fried donuts but along with the tangy coulis and the chocolate sauce, this was *awesome*. It's already a big order - you get either 5 or 7 donuts (I can't remember now) and seriously - if they had doubled it, we probably would have finished that too! Small complaint: it comes with a spoon but I actually think a fork would have been more useful, at least to avoid getting your fingers sticky with cinnamon sugar.
Service was attentive and prompt. The timing of the plates was pretty good; I thought the entrees could have come out a few minutes faster than they did but it wasn't a real issue.
I did the prices were higher than were justified. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed the meal immensely and would go back but I didn't feel like the flatbread was worth $14 or the sandwich $16. Dinner for the two of us, with one beer and tip was $96.
We went for Sunday lunch yesterday and it was very good. My wife and our son both had the cheeseburger with fries (excellent, juicy and beefy tasting patty and the brioche bun is outstanding in both its consistency and its flavor - standing up to the juicy patty and cheese without any problem). I had one of the lunch specials - a smoked salmon and two perfectly poached eggs and spinach on a croissant with hollandaise sauce and a side salad. Two cokes, one ice tea and an order of the doughnuts (thanks for adding to my cholesterol count odub! - but they were great) and we were out of there for $61 plus tip. I felt that the prices were quite fair for the quality of the food and the more than comfortable ambiance (and good service).
ADD: Thanks to MaxZ for adding the link and to odub - we got 6 doughnuts (both desserts we have had there have been HUGE and delicious - a good combo for sure)
The only reason I thought the donuts were either 5 or 7 is because my wife and I split it evenly until there was just one left in the bowl and we sort of look at each other for a moment and then just lifted it out, split it with a spoon, and shared the last one.
Like I said, fresh donuts probably aren't as hard to pull off vs. a really good souffle but they are damn satisfying.
Your lunch bill sounds pretty reasonable compared to our dinner. Just to reiterate, I didn't find it exorbitant but there were a few items that all felt like they were priced higher than they deserved to be but we're talking, at most, $4 here and there.