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Westside Tavern -- a resounding success

h
havepixel Aug 27, 2009 08:04 AM

Full write-up with pictures:

http://www.danieleats.com/2009/08/wes...

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.

-Daniel

  1. Servorg Aug 27, 2009 08:09 AM

    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).

    1. v
      vinosnob Aug 27, 2009 09:08 AM

      Who's the chef at WT?

      2 Replies
      1. re: vinosnob
        h
        havepixel Aug 27, 2009 09:53 AM

        Warren Schwartz, who was the chef at Viceroy Hotel's Whist. He came out to greet us during dinner. That was incredibly nice of him since the place was extremely busy.

        1. re: havepixel
          g
          Gilgamesch Aug 28, 2009 06:49 AM

          Warren was also the head chef at Saddle Peak Lodge.

      2. m
        mdpilam Aug 27, 2009 10:55 AM

        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.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mdpilam
          h
          havepixel Aug 27, 2009 11:22 AM

          Hi, we did have to ask for bread & butter, and it wasn't on the bill. I'm surprised your server didn't offer it.

          I prefer my drinks very strong (I usually go for Manhattans or straight Scotch) but the Moscow Mule was still very good. I'll try something else next time.

        2. Tom P Aug 28, 2009 04:00 PM

          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.

          1. o
            odub Oct 11, 2009 11:18 AM

            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.

            2 Replies
            1. re: odub
              Servorg Oct 12, 2009 08:03 AM

              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)

              1. re: Servorg
                o
                odub Oct 12, 2009 11:31 AM

                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.

            2. maxzook Oct 12, 2009 09:21 AM

              Linking ...

              -----
              Westside Tavern
              10850 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

              1. c
                condementia Oct 12, 2009 12:23 PM

                have been several times and it was packed the last time i went (this past saturday night), with a large crowd milling outside. at first i thought that the landmark was having a special event but no, they were all waiting for a table. the hostess had mentioned bar seating (either at the main bar or the private space) and even those areas were packed and had to wait a little while.

                i LOVE their grapefruit rickeys, chicken liver mousse and the ale battered halibut fish and chips (our version of chips, not fries) and a finger-licking good dill tarragon tartar sauce. i didn't care too much for their angus strip steak.

                initially, this past weekend, i was planning to have the chicken liver mousse again but then reconsidered, having thought about irene virbila's mention of the fish and chips. so, when ordering, i had asked for "the halibut," not having bothered with the menu nor (stupidly) considered that there may be other halibut dishes. the couple that had sat next to me and ordered well after me got their dishes before me (and it wasn't because they were getting special treatment for being regulars; they said it was their 2nd time). the bartender saw my quizzical look and explained that my dish would be out shortly and that the halibut takes longer...tho, i didn't buy that. when my order finally came, i was surprised to see a different dish. the bartender apologized for the confusion and fixed the situation...putting my order at the front of the line and i got it within minutes. you get three large fieces of perfectly-cooked fish and it's worth every penny of the $19 and the overall long wait. i told the bartender that they should offer the chips by themselves and he said that even though it's not on the menu, you can always ask for them.

                the chicken liver mousse, which i'd had at an earlier visit, comes in a little mason jar and is wonderful. it's very rich and there's plenty to share. the mango salsa wasn't anything special, not too flavorful and not enough to be able to enjoy a few pieces on every bite but its acidity does help balance the unctuousness of the mousse.

                the grapefruit rickeys were great every time...not too sweet or bitter.

                on another occasion, i had the grilled angus strip steak...it was well cooked (i ordered it med rare) but the cut of meat was a little too tough. i'm not a big fan of having cheese with my steak but the big hunk of st. agar blue that was on the side was delicious and helped me get through the meat. the heirloom tomatoes didn't do too much either and there could've been a little more of the aged balsamic on the plate. i really felt like some fries with my steak and had asked the waitress for some...a side of fries wasn't on the menu, either but they happily obliged.

                lesson? if you don't see something on the menu that's offered with other dishes but not as stand-alones, just ask them.

                12 Replies
                1. re: condementia
                  o
                  odub Oct 12, 2009 04:35 PM

                  I don't mean to keep harping on this point but I'm just saying: $19 for fish and chips just feels unusually high for a place touting itself as a tavern. Provided, halibut is more expensive than cod but even then. What bothers me isn't that the food isn't worth it, it just the price point feels inherently illogical to me. It'd be like seeing a $15 burrito on a menu somewhere.

                  That said - a few folks ordered this when we went and every time they went by I kept thinking, 'damn, those look kind of good."

                  1. re: odub
                    Servorg Oct 12, 2009 04:38 PM

                    Westside Tavern reminds me of Houston's more than a little. And the prices are very similar at both. I think the rent they pay at a major mall and the number of servers and other staff undoubtedly dictate things like $19 for the F & C's.

                    1. re: Servorg
                      westsidegal Oct 12, 2009 07:35 PM

                      went there for lunch today.
                      even though they had an army of servers in attendance the service was extremely inattentive.

                      the food would have been more appealing if i had not been spoiled by other eateries around town.

                      the burrata starter for $14 probably would have been more appealing if i had never experienced the burrata starter served at metro cafe. the little dabs of burrata were good enough, but the dish was overwhelmed with the taste of raw red onions. at metro, the quantity of the burrata is much more generous, but, even more importantly, the balance of the dish, and the combination of the flavors put the westside tavern version to shame.

                      the shrimp salad ($18, irrc)which was made with beefy/big chunks of boiled shrimp mixed with feta cheese and whatnot glommed together and scooped out onto the plate, probably would have pleased me more if i had not ever tasted shrimp at mariscos chente. the quantity of the shrimp was fine, but the flavor simply didn't compare to those served at mariscos chente. also the combination of shrimp and feta cheese, was, in my opinion, meh.

                      the roasted cauliflour side dish would have been more ok if i had never experienced the amazing roasted cauliflower dish served at gjelina. the cauliflower tasted as though it had been boiled or steamed first and so it didn't have the distinctive texture that one expects from this dish. the salsa verde was ok. in total, though, meh

                      had i know about the difficulty of getting mediocre bread delivered to the table, i would have brought a megaphone and a big flashing lighted sign. . . .
                      nobody noticed when the creamer container for the coffee was empty. . . .
                      nobody really monitored the table on an ongoing basis to see what we needed.
                      whoever thought that using dishtowels instead of napkins was a good idea should have equipped the table with lint rollers for those of use who were wearing black. . . . . .

                      my conculsions are that:
                      #1) all in all, imho, their culinary ambitions ran ahead of their true ability to deliver.
                      and
                      #2) something is wrong when so many service people are running around and you still can't get anyone's attention . ..
                      and
                      #3) the pretty room wasn't enough for me to want to rush back

                      1. re: westsidegal
                        o
                        odub Oct 12, 2009 08:56 PM

                        wait, you're supposed to get bread? Or by request only? We never got offered!

                        1. re: odub
                          westsidegal Oct 12, 2009 10:37 PM

                          it wasn't offered.
                          we had to ask for it.
                          ridiculous.
                          the bread, like the rest of the meal, wasn't anything special.
                          the bread at metro cafe is GOOD.
                          this bread was not.

                          1. re: odub
                            Dommy Oct 12, 2009 11:02 PM

                            That is because they want to sell their flat breads... I typically order salads and such at places like these and ask for a side of bread to accompany. I didn't in our recent visit (I ordered the Ahi salad which I didn't want messed with bread) but I have at Gjelina (which serves a delightful sliced bread platter actually... )

                            1. re: Dommy
                              groover808 Dec 30, 2009 07:36 PM

                              Is there a charge for the bread at Gjelina? I'm planning on going soon, definitely will keep the bread in mind if it's tasty.

                              1. re: groover808
                                b
                                baloney Dec 31, 2009 07:42 AM

                                I've never been charged for bread at Gjelina, though you do have to request it. They usually give two types, a baguette and fruit and nut bread. Both are quite good and I love the flake salt they sprinkle on top of the butter.

                                1. re: baloney
                                  Dommy Jan 2, 2010 10:24 PM

                                  Yup! I was not charged... but the plate is pretty much an individual order... so it's not a bread basket... Just enough to use to eat my amazing burrata salad this late summer...

                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/dommichu...

                                  --Dommy!

                        2. re: Servorg
                          j
                          jeffepops Dec 30, 2009 02:45 PM

                          The resemblance to Houston's is only superficial -- some of the architectural/interior design element are similar. The menu is completely different. Houston's is not bad for a chain, but food and service is very stock quality and the wine list and coctail prices a WT are superior and more reasonable. Houston's menu is virtually unchanged year round. WT has many more seasonal dishes and uses market fresh ingredients (produce) for it's soups, salads and side dishes. There's no way I would ever choose Houston's over WT, I doubt many other would, either. BTW, the Caesar Salad at Houston's runs $14, compared to $10 at WT -- a 40% difference.

                          1. re: jeffepops
                            w
                            whatsfordinner Dec 31, 2009 07:55 AM

                            I must be in the minority then. I actually prefer Houston's over WT and just can't understand the glowing reviews for WT. I'm not saying Houston's is a great restaurant, but I think it fills the same niche (sp?) as WT and is just better. I think the architecture of Houston's, in Santa Monica at least, is much nicer, and the food is tastier even though the menu doesn't change. On my two visits to WT there was an odd institutional odor and the food was very average.

                            1. re: whatsfordinner
                              westsidegal Jan 7, 2010 05:49 PM

                              Whatsfordinner,i agree with you on all points, .

                    2. Tom P Nov 11, 2009 08:06 PM

                      Was there again yet today. Still feeling the love. A nice carafe of wine for 15 dollars... 2.5 nice sized glasses. The Sweet Corn & Smoked Mozzarella Flatbread with Roasted Tomatoes, Pesto and Wild Arugula remains one of my favorite dishes from the entire year. Terrific appetizer to split for the table, or to have for an entree. I also had the Flat Iron Steak, now done with a lot of black pepper. It was terrific and served with some of the best fries in town.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: Tom P
                        Servorg Nov 23, 2009 05:21 AM

                        Went for a late lunch yesterday. All the food was very good, (my shrimp salad was excellent) but man oh man, the chocolate bread pudding was both so damn good and so damn big (it would easily feed 3 or even 4 people). This will be one of my "go to" desserts as long as they keep it on the menu.

                        1. re: Servorg
                          b
                          baloney Nov 23, 2009 07:13 AM

                          I'm a big fan of WT, I should get here more often as I always enjoy myself whenever I do. Have you tried their donuts, Servorg? They're great! I've got to try that bread pudding(if I can find enough people to share with me!) You are right that their dessert portions are pretty generous, but I had no problem having 4(out of 6) donuts myself!

                          1. re: baloney
                            Servorg Nov 23, 2009 07:15 AM

                            So far we have had the sticky toffee cake, the donuts and now the bread pudding. While all have been good (and huge) the bread pudding really did it for me. If you try it please post your thoughts.

                            1. re: Servorg
                              wienermobile Dec 30, 2009 03:02 PM

                              I agree that the bread pudding is just ok but boy is that lamb dip sandwich good.

                              1. re: Servorg
                                b
                                baloney Dec 30, 2009 07:30 PM

                                I have had the bread pudding twice now and agree with Servorg that it is pretty great. I don't typically like bread puddings, but this one had a wonderfully crunchy top and hot chocolatey, gooey goodness under that. The malted ice cream was great as well, though I prefer my homemade version which is much maltier.

                                1. re: baloney
                                  Servorg Dec 30, 2009 07:32 PM

                                  We had dinner there the other night but I was too full for the bread pudding - which left me feeling a little sad. ;-D> Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love bread pudding, but there are a lot of pretenders around and very few true revelatory examples.

                            2. re: Servorg
                              mollyomormon Dec 31, 2009 08:24 AM

                              I crave that shrimp salad. It's a little pricey, but the serving of shrimp is incredibly generous. Might have to get it for lunch today...

                              1. re: mollyomormon
                                Servorg Dec 31, 2009 08:41 AM

                                molly - if you have at least 3 other (good) eaters along and want something sweet get the bread pudding (you can always call me and I'll rush down to help you with it if it proves to be too much.... ;-D>)

                                1. re: Servorg
                                  mollyomormon Dec 31, 2009 09:00 AM

                                  thank you for the generous offer ;)! and happy new year's!!

                            3. re: Tom P
                              hyacinthgirl Nov 23, 2009 02:57 PM

                              Second the fries and the steak. I had none of the OP's problem ("The fries were ok and could have been crispier") as our fries were perfectly crisp.
                              We also tried the steak salad, which was more like sliced steak, hunks of parmigean, with a small side of greens. Not quite as much salad as I was expecting, but still, it was delicious.
                              The service was also very friendly and considerate.
                              My only negative comment is on the space itself. To me, for whatever reason, "tavern" denotes somewhere smaller with a cozy feeling. This place is a bit sprawling for my taste. But again, that's just a personal prejudice and certainly didn't affect my enjoyment of the food and wine.

                              1. re: hyacinthgirl
                                m
                                mopeyboy Jan 7, 2010 11:23 AM

                                Have been a dozen times. Drinks were always great. As noted above, the Grapefruit Rickey is outrageous and do try the Hemingway Daiquiri. Every flatbread we have tried has been stellar, with the mushroom/bacon/truffle oil, being the best. The burgers and fries are good, too. As as special, they sometimes have a tri-tip sandwich which has been great. Normally prefer brisket but California has this thing with tri-tip! The donuts are worth the trip.

                                -----
                                Westside Tavern
                                10850 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                            4. b
                              Bruin2 Jan 7, 2010 08:11 PM

                              Put me down as another fan of WT. Three of us ate dinner and every dish was really good. I'm really surprised that some people have compared it to a lesser Houston's. Understanding that we all have our own tastes and experiences, when I have eaten at Houstons, the food has been ok but I felt like I was eating at an expensive and gussied up (when's the last time you used or read that word) coffee shop and the food was overpriced for what it was. At WT, I thought the food was great, and I felt like it was underpriced for the quality of the food. For us, a 180 degree feeling from a couple of posters below that felt the opposite. I do hope WT keep up the good work and keep the quality and creativity of the food going.

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