West of Pecos -- looks like this is the first review [SF]
Decided to give this new place on Valencia a try as the menu looked interesting -- sort of a modern take on Tex-Mex with lots of small plates or larger ones suitable for sharing. I'd heard they were still going through some start-up pains, but all in all thought I'd readily return.
We had four dishes: the Queso and home-made chips, the rosemary chicken skewers, duck flautas and a pumpkin seed "caesar" salad. Plus two glasses of an Oregon pinot gris each, for a total of around $80. Not bad for a relatively upscale place.
The Queso was delicious and creamy, made from Monterey Jack, Cheddar, green chilis and just a bit of chorizo.
My favorite of the dishes we tried was the salad. While this wasn't a traditional caesar by any means, that was an excellent thing as the interplays of flavors in this were wonderful. The basis was good romaine, a bit of creamy garlic dressing, fresh Mexican cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds. But then, to be added are desired was a fresh lime wedge, one side of which had been coated in coarsely ground chili -- which when added to the overall salad give it a brightness and just a bit of spiceiness. Then adding a sweeter note, there were a couple of roasted plum tomatos halves. I'd come back to the restaurant just to have this again, it was so good.
The chicken skewers were juicy, marinated thigh pieces strung onto a couple of rosemary twigs and grilled, four to a skewer. A very generous small plate and worth ordering.
The unfortunately loser were the duck flautas. The tortillas they were wrapped in and fried were too think and so quite hard, and the duck itself was dry, making the overall effect somewhat tasteless. This came with a nice bit of chopped salad, which was itself very good but not enough to redeem this dish.
There were a number of other things on the menu that sounded particularly good, including albodigas made with lamb and chorizo, and a whole fish fajitas with house made tortillas. There's a full bar, requisite tequila list and beers, as well as a number of interesting wines.
Tyler MacNiven, winner of Season 9 The Amazing Race, is the owner of West of Pecos - he was there when I went Sat 7/28/12. He lite the candle for us, when I asked if he was on the show he introduced himself to us, shook our hands, & let me takes some pics! Super nice guy. He also owns Woodhouse Fish Company, SF.
Food we tried: I saw someone's blog & read the menu online so I knew what I wanted to try.
Cornbread in a small skillet $6 - comes with a small scoop of butter on top & syrup on the side. It has corn that you can see & eat inside the cornbread! Yum! Get it.
Green chile mac & cheese $8 - small skillet filled with creamy mac & cheese, little bit of green chile. We liked it.
Arugula salad $10 - big enough for 2, or for 1 person's entree. We liked it. A bunch of goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, candied walnuts.
Texas ribs $14 - Only 6 ribs, tender, some blackened on the top, a bit spicy. I liked it.
4 dishes & 1 drink $56.42 before tip.
There's a bar area, & 2 dining rooms. Separate bathrooms available. Women's had a candle in the shape of a cowboy boot, kids book on the wall on Pecos Bill.
I was never more aware of how much all my senses play into my appreciation of food than at this place the other night; it was so dark I could barely make out the dishes closest to me. And I stained my clothes!
The food was mild to the point of babyfood. The server brought a somewhat spicy hot sauce and a bowl of sliced raw red jalapenos that were barely spicy. The best dish by far was the cornbread, The guacamole (and I make the great Diana Kennedy's sans cilantro) was admirable for its very fresh tasting, perfectly ripe chunks of avocado, if otherwise not much like real guac; chips were fresh. My favorite part of the cheese dip was the somewhat spicy rajas--fried strips of chiles--on top. The posole suffered from underdone hominy and dried out meat. The dish where I most missed any visual contact was a vegetable saute; I didn't enjoy finding out what I was eating after I'd chewed it! The carnitas was ok but perhaps not the right place to have it. The sausage in the lamb and chorizo meatballs was no more detectable than it had been on the cheese dip, and the balls were a bit unremitting., The allegedly freshly made corn tortillas didn't have the texture I expect from handmade--too thin and a bit rubbery. Machine-made to order? Even my cocktail, supposedly made with serranos, was devoid of any hot pepperiness!
Fortunately, I have a decent miniflashlight on my key chain and was able to read the menu to my companions.
Since this is hardly a romantic type place, why do you suppose it's so poorly lighted?
re: Robert Lauriston
There are various regional and family traditions. In the avocado-producing region of Michoacan guacamole is usually just avocados and salt, sometimes with a little lime juice, with salsa on the side.
"There are many variations—making it with tomates verdes, or leaving out the tomato altogether, mashing the avocado with just a little chili and salt and a suspicion of lime juice. Practically anything goes, but within certain limits, which does not include the unnecessary additions that I see in most pedestrian cookbooks."—Diana Kennedy, "The Cuisines of Mexico"
When guacamole does contain tomatoes, in Mexico they're always finely chopped. Big chunks or whole cherry tomatoes are to me one of those unnecessary additions.
But this isn't really a Mexican restaurant, so I don't think we can fault them for that. (Though I am not a fan of their guac.)
BF and I took my six-year-old niece for an early dinner here a month ago, and we were all happy. Was it--from my perspective--mind-blowing food, Mexican or otherwise? No, but it was solid. We all loved the corn bread. Kid liked the mac-n-cheese with chiles. I had the steak with cheese enchiladas. BF and I split the Caesar salad. He had the albondigas and liked them so much I did not get a taste. Extremely generous portions. Tasty food. Nice service. Convenient location. Probably really good for groups and/or drinkers.
I certainly haven't eaten at West of Pecos, I would love to. The fare at this place sounds like it's quite good, and very well crafted. But I'd like to know more about what qualifies West of Pecos's fare as " a sort of modern take on Tex-Mex". As one who was born and raised in San Antonio, and a 5th generation Texan, and one who strives to prepare Tex-Mex in a more modern and fresh way, the term seems way open to interpretation, and on loose footing in terms of Mexican food unique to Texas. I'm not trying to seem indignant, self righteous or even mean spirited...I love ALL had crafted foods prepared by people who love what they do. However most of the ingredients and dishes I am reading about here have never been part of standard Tex-Mex Fare as I have experienced it. That said, I'd love to look at their menu, and will definitely try their offerings next time I am on the west coast!
Went last night. Queso was good. So was guacamole though I would have preferred without the cherry tomatoes. Excellent chips. Pozole was a different style but delicious broth with a lot of dark chiles. Flat iron steak with a cheese enchilada with a dark chile sauce was a great combination. Tostada salad was a good value and the roasted chulpe was a nice touch.
Duck flautas were just as Joan described. Dry duck in an overcooked tortilla, desperately needed some sort of seasoning and sauce. How can they still be serving such a wrong dish weeks later?
Excellent cocktails, some good beers, wine list could be better.
Great space. Amazing makeover of the old Bombay Bazaar. Overall, solid place, good value.
As always, JK, great report!
You had me at duck flautas reading your order list, and what a let down to hear the result. I'm still trying to get my head around the idea of TX queso without an velveeta. :)
West of Pecos
550 Valencia Street
San Francisco, California 94110