I have a confession to make. I rarely dine on the Westside. I realize that I am missing out on such places as Melisse in Santa Monica, Spago in Beverly Hills and countless other tasty destinations that are west of Hollywood. I'm not saying I'll NEVER go to these places but truthfully, I don't feel comfortable driving home from such a distance after having several glasses of wine. I also don't feel comfortable dining at those types of places and NOT having some wine;). That, combined with my general disdain for LA traffic, keep my dining destinations to the Eastside.
It's certainly a habit I will have to work on changing if I'm truly going to experience all that Los Angeles has to offer. I've started keeping a list of places beyond my usual city circle that I am determined to visit and will make it a point go outside the box, so to speak. I got my start last weekend when J and I had dinner at West, a new restaurant inside Hotel Angeleno, a new luxury hotel which sits where Sunset meets the 405 Freeway. Yes, you're right- it IS where that circular Holiday Inn used to be but now that building has been renovated into a hotel that begs to be the next Standard. The lobby is all muted colors and clean lines while the yet-unfinished pool area was strewn with dark and elegant patio furniture. Although the Angeleno looks a bit more mature than The Standard, I have a feeling that they are going for the same demographic.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I was invited to have a complimentary meal at West and that yes, that fact did encourage me to drive, er, west. J and I arrived a bit early, handed the keys to the valet and went straight up to the restaurant in one of two elevators. The very kind host and hostess greeted us warmly and sat us at a two-top right by the window and the beautiful view. Even thought it was only 7:30 PM, the bar area was buzzing and about 70% of the tables were full.
J immediately started reading the wine list and was excited to see one of our favorites- the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand- on it since we rarely have the chance to have it at a restaurant. Unfortunately, they were out of that wine so we went back to work out a new game plan. I have to admit I was surprised that such a new place was already out of something. Although the waiter suggested a South African sauvi that he thought was comparable, we declined the offer and decided to start with a couple of glasses of prosecco instead.
The menu includes a large selection of small plates- all of which sounded extremely appealing. However, I was there to try the steak since West dubs itself as an "Italian steakhouse." I decided on the Tuna Tonnato to start and the 20 ounce, bone-in rib eye with a chili rub for the main course. J chose the oysters as an appetizer and the Tuscan chicken to follow. The waiter asked if we wanted a side dish of vegetables for our mains, so I asked for the grilled asparagus with pecorino while J opted for the brocollini. We toasted our glasses and dug into the bread which came accompanied by chunks of nutty parmesan, fragrantly bitter olives and some chili-infused olive oil.
The waiter approached a short time later and set a rack (the sort you see at pizzerias that suspends the pizza off the table) down and placed the silver plate of oysters on top of the rack. Although I've seen this before with oysters (I'm guessing it keeps the condensation off of the table cloth) I'd never seen a rack so high that it put the oysters above eye level. After I got my tuna, J and I sat there for a moment feeling a bit silly that we couldn't even see each other since the oyster plate was almost completely blocking his head! He quickly took the plate off the rack and one of the busboys took the rack away. MUCH better. I don't understand how they expect you to eat anything that you have to reach above your head for. Anyway, on to the food. The tuna was seared, possibly smoked, sliced and topped with a creamy aioli and some greens. It was fine, but nothing spectacular. I guess I'm more partial to having my rare or raw seafood sauced with something more on the vinegary or gingery side- not a creamy sauce. J enjoyed his oysters which came with two types of mignonette.
Before the steak arrived, I ordered a glass of pino noir since, much to my disappointment, there were no zinfandels available by glass. To me, red meat and zin are a match made in heaven. My mood quickly changed, however, when the waiter sat the large plate of hunking meat down in front of me. I must say- it was gorgeous. J looked at his chicken and then looked at my steak and knew he should have ordered one too. Of course 20 ounces is much too much for a girl to eat all by herself (in public) so we ended up sharing it. It came complete with a blue cheese butter, a red wine reduction, béarnaise and a stack of meltingly tender caramelized onions, but who needs sauce on a piece of meat this delicious? To be fair, I did try all three sauces and particularly enjoyed the red wine reduction but the real star was the steak. It didn't really have even a hint of chili flavor or heat, but the beef was magnificent and perfect in it's medium rare state. J's chicken was fine, albeit a bit on the dry side, but we both agreed that steak was the way to go.
Then......well, I don't want to say horror since I was thoroughly enjoying my meal at this point. But I must be honest with you, dear readers. In my bovine bliss I had completely forgotten to eat my asparagus so I stabbed a couple of spears with my fork to give it a try. Unfortunately my fork stabbed more than just green.....it also seemed to have caught a long, dark hair that was partially wrapped around the veggie. Once again, in the interest of FULL disclosure, I have long, dark hair.....which was nowhere near the plate of asparagus but I thought "hmmm, maybe it's mine..." and pulled it off the plate. When my next forkful contained a short dark hair which had been ensconced in the middle of the pile of asparagus, I knew it didn't come off of this head and I also knew that I had to speak. To his credit, the manager looked very upset and swiftly took the offending plate off the table. Within a few minutes I was served up a fresh, piping hot plate of asparagus that was grilled very nicely.
Even though we were pretty full at this point, we had to try their desserts. J ordered the peach tartlet and I went with the molten chocolate cake. Both came looking as pretty as can be- my dark cake sitting on an oblong plate dotted with tufts of whipped cream and sprinkled with tiny balls of chocolate and J's tart perched on a drizzle of beautiful green sauce. I quickly cut into the cake to reveal the warm and gooey center which tasted like dark chocolate heaven. I also truly enjoyed the tiny chocolate balls which had some heat to them- I can't be sure but I think they were pink peppercorns coated in chocolate. Brilliant. J's tart was everything you'd want in such a comforting dessert- warm peaches in flaky pastry with hints of maple, brown sugar and......mint. So THAT was the green sauce. Although it wasn't bad, I just think that some classic desserts shouldn't be messed with. Mint in a peach fruit salad? Great. Mint in a chocolate dessert? Fabulous. But adding that flavor element to what essentially is a peach pie just doesn't make sense. I think the tart would work much better without it.
Overall, the service was very good and we noticed that there were no less than three managers on the floor at any given time. The food could use a bit of tweaking (except the steaks which are perfect!) but for a place that has been open for only a couple of months, I have high hopes that those kinks will be worked out in no time. About the hair- it actually proves a point that I have regarding service vs. food at restaurants. For me, the service is KEY. If I have bad food at a place with stellar service, somehow that food is a bit easier to swallow and the effort by the staff may be enough to bring me back for another try. However, bad service can absolutely RUIN a good meal- no matter how good the food is. I recently had an experience where a waiter was so unbelievably rude that it wouldn't have made any difference had I been eating lobster and foie gras- I was livid and would never return. So the fact that the "issue" was handled in a polite, apologetic and timely manner made what would normally have been an extremely offensive bump-in-the-road something that was fairly easy to overlook. That said, it should certainly never happen again because, as they say, three hairs, I mean strikes, and you're OUT.
West is the perfect place for a date- the view is beautiful, the chairs are extremely comfortable and the variety of small plates makes it easy to try a bunch of different things on the menu. Of course the fact that you could book a room after dinner doesn't hurt either....but I digress. Go for the view, stay for the steak and whatever happens after that is up to you.
170 N. Church Lane
Los Angeles , California 90049
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