Westside Tavern – West Los Angeles

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

When Martin and I go out, more often than not, food is the main event. We don’t plan to go anywhere afterward; we simply enjoy our dinner and each other’s company. If we have the luxury and opportunity, a tasting menu consisting of a dozen courses would be our idea of date night. But sometimes, you’re in the mood for the oldie but goodie – dinner and a movie. That’s where Westside Tavern comes in.

Foreground: Sazerac Old Overholt Rye Whiskey | Simple Syrup | Bitters | Absinthe Mist (Background: Iced Green Tea)

Foreground: Sazerac Old Overholt Rye Whiskey | Simple Syrup | Bitters | Absinthe Mist (Background: Iced Green Tea)

Situated in the heart of the Westside Pavilion, a few short miles down Westwood Boulevard from our alma mater, Westside Tavern is built to accommodate the patrons of the adjoining Landmark Theater. The service is quick, friendly, and efficient, and the food comes out with plenty of time to spare even if you’re trying to squeeze in a three-course meal before a show (guilty as charged). With my recent career trajectory, and given the personal recommendations I had received, we decided to see Chef (GREAT movie, by the way). To whet our appetites for the food-themed movie, we decided to indulge.

Appetizer: Jar of Chicken Liver Mousse - Green Apple Chutney | Grilled Sourdough

Appetizer: Jar of Chicken Liver Mousse – Green Apple Chutney | Grilled Sourdough

Appetizer: Jar of Chicken Liver Mousse – Green Apple Chutney | Grilled Sourdough

It’s no secret on this blog that we love all things charcuterie, so when a place offers chicken liver mousse, you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be ordering it. The adorable glass jar of paté was topped with a wine-red gelée (I couldn’t identify the flavor as it was vaguely sweet but overpowered by the liver). I really enjoyed the crisp and tart chutney; when I had read the description on the menu, I expected a more jam-like cooked chutney but was pleasantly surprised by this fresh pickled salad of sorts. The grilled sourdough was delicious and unique “paté carrier” in lieu of regular old toast. I am incredibly biased with regard to the paté itself, however, and while it was good, it just did not live up to the hype of the many positive reviews I had read (see Yelp and other forums). The primary thing for me was the color; I could not get past the gray hue of oxidized livers.

Entree: Butter Poached Lobster Roll on Brioche

Entree: Butter Poached Lobster Roll on Brioche

Entree: Butter Poached Lobster Roll on Brioche

When we went to New England last spring, I learned that there were two competing camps of lobster rolls: Connecticut-style (tossed in hot, drawn butter) and Maine-style (served cold in a mayo-based salad). I am in food-love with the hot, buttery CT-style and jumped at the chance to have one here, despite the $19 price tag. A crispy, toasted, split-top brioche roll packed to the brim with succulent knuckle and claw meat… I was in cholesterol heaven! They say money can’t buy happiness, but Westside Tavern managed to name a price. $19. All things considered, not a bad deal for buttery bliss.

(Martin had the Wagyu Beef French Dip – Smoked Onion Vinaigrette | Horseradish Cream | Thyme Jus | French Roll. He dug in too quickly for me to snap a photo but seemed quite happy with his hot, meaty sandwich swimming in hearty jus.)

Dessert: Warm Sticky Toffee Cake - Mascarpone Cream

Dessert: Warm Sticky Toffee Cake – Mascarpone Cream

Dessert: Warm Sticky Toffee Cake – Mascarpone Cream

There’s ALWAYS room for dessert, and when at a pub with “tavern” in the name, you just can’t pass up the sticky toffee pudding! It has been said by others and I will say it again here: the sticky toffee cake at Westside Tavern is HUGE. Like “bring all of your friends and share” huge. The cake was warm and spongy, the toffee sauce sweet and syrupy, and the quenelle of mascarpone cream was the perfect light and airy touch. We regretted not being able to finish it all then and there.

So as I mentioned earlier, our server was great at timing our courses so that we could eat without feeling rushed but still get our meal served in time to run upstairs and catch the movie. We allotted an hour and a half before our scheduled movie time and it worked out perfectly (the less ambitious could probably plan for an hour flat). Overall, it was certainly the best dinner-and-a-movie experience that I can recall!

And speaking of movies, if you haven’t seen Jon Favreau’s Chef yet, I highly recommend checking it out. The kitchen humor especially is hilarious and hilariously accurate, while still being an enjoyable and relatable movie to viewers in and out of the industry alike. And for those who have seen it, I leave you with two words: hush puppies.

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Check out Westside Tavern: westsidetavernla.com

10850 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

See their Yelp reviews here!

DineLA – Wilshire Restaurant (Summer 2012)

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

This year, DineLA Restaurant Week moved up from fall to the very first summer DineLA, weekends inclusive! While I’m a little bummed that there won’t be a DineLA during my birthday in October anymore, I still love checking out new restaurants at discounted rates any time of the year. Cassandra and I took this opportunity to try Wilshire Restaurant, not one mile away from the office. The food was fantastic, the price (rated $$$ – $25/person) was great, the service was friendly, and the ambiance was relaxing (albeit a little too leisurely for weekday lunch break).

The outdoor patio

First Course: Organic Salmon Tartare with Yuzu and Togarashi

The starter that stood out to both of us was the salmon tartare with yuzu, and it certainly did not disappoint. The yuzu sauce was refreshing with its bright citrusy notes which contrasted well with the slightly creamy tartare. The bed of wakame (sesame marinated seaweed) was a pleasant surprise underneath the beautifully orange salmon and the crunchy fried wonton strips added an interesting texture. It brought to mind one of my favorite guilty pleasures — (diced, not mushy) spicy tuna on crispy rice.

Main Course: Slow Braised Shortrib Sandwich with Watercress, Harissa Aioli, and Truffled Chips

We also selected the same entree – the braised short rib sandwich with harissa aioli, hers with the Kennebec fries and mine with truffled chips. The chips! Oh the chips! They were clearly made in-house, crispy and fresh out of the fryer, and gently tossed in a light drizzle of truffle oil, a dash of salt, and a sprinkling of parsley. So delicious! The sandwich was absolutely delectable. The braised short rib was lovingly slow-cooked ’till it was nice and tender and it was bursting with flavor with each bite. The sandwich was held together perfectly by a fresh square of ciabatta and the watercress complemented the sandwich and cut some of the richness from the fatty meat and aioli. I could only finish one of my sandwich halves and took the other one home.

Dessert #1: Sticky Toffee Pudding with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

We were most looking forward to the dessert; to be honest, it was one of the main reasons why we chose to dine here rather than the other places we had bookmarked. We ordered one of each to try – the strawberry shortcake and the sticky toffee pudding. First, the good news. The sticky toffee pudding arrived warm and soft, topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream that had already begun to melt over the cake. It was, in a word, heavenly. The pudding itself was not too sweet (perfect for me) unless you lucked into a bit of toffee, at which point it got a bit cavity-inducing. As if the braised short ribs didn’t impress me enough, I would come back here just for the sticky toffee pudding.

Dessert #2: Strawberry “Shortcake”

The strawberry shortcake, however, looked stunning but was a bit disappointing. The biscuit was too dry and crumbly, and the whipped cream was a bit dense. The plump macerated strawberries were fresh and sweet, so that wasn’t a total loss. Still, it paled in comparison to the other dessert option.

The outdoor patio was beautiful even during the day. We noticed lights strung across the patio and heat lamps set up for cooler nights, and I think it would be wonderful to dine here for a romantic al fresco dinner! The service was friendly but with the patio being so large and dineLA bringing over twice as many patrons as usual during lunch hour, the experience as a whole did last longer than we had expected. No problem if you’re here for a casual meal but potential issue for those on break from work. If you have the time though, I recommend trying their lunch lineup.

DineLA Summer 2012 runs from now through the 27th, so go check it out if you’re in the area! After DineLA, you can still get a similar selection of courses during lunch on their summer menu.

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Check out Wilshire Restaurant: wilshirerestaurant.com

2454 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403

See their Yelp reviews here!