Tucked away on the ground floor of the less-frequented side of Westside Pavilion shopping center (across Westwood Blvd, by Barnes & Noble, under Landmark Theatres) - Westside Tavern at first glance does not seem like a welcoming place, with its entrance essentially a solid block of wood with a narrow opening leading to the recessed hostess desk. However, this quickly opens up into an expansive, sleek but comfortable space with a wall-to-wall bar up front, leading to 'stadium' tiers of wood panelling, tables and rounds of semi-circular booths with black-padded seats up top.
The arduous trek through the city and the half hour wait for a table (well, for Director, since I arrived totally late! Westside Tavern does not take reservations) is rapidly forgetten as we sat down to look through the whiplash-inducing drink menu. All the cocktail descriptions looked delicious, it was really hard to choose. They also have a substantial list of craft beers, but not being beer fans we completely ignored that list.
Director went with The Rum Runner ($11), a beautiful and well balanced tumbler of Barbados Rum, Blackberries, Banana Liqueur, Lemon & Orange Juices.
At our friendly server's recommendation, we started with the Farmstead Cheeses & Cured Meats Board ($16) with Cashew Butter, Quince Jam, Mustard, Pickles. Loved everything on this plate from the charcuterie to the cheeses and breads - we were so distracted by the sounds of our own gorging that I didn't even remember to note the name of each item. The only one whose name I remember was the Humboldt Fog cheese, lush and beautiful with a vein of savory (edible) vegetable ash running through the creamy slice.
Our server explained that this is not a combination of crudo, ceviche and tartare, but that one of the three would be offered as that day's special. That night, a shrimp ceviche was on offer - and the intuitive flavorings turned out to be citrus and chipotle (?) plus cilantro.
We love the juicy, tender but structured (i.e. fresh!) pieces of shrimp with the kick from what we think is chipotle.
This is possibly the best French Dip sandwich I've had in the city thus far (sorry Philippe, I know of your legend but my taste buds don't agree with its continuing status...), though I have to note that I haven't done an extensive, focused survey...
The lamb slices were juicy, perfectly cooked and the bread was at the perfect ratio to the meat, skillfully toasted for a nice crunch while maintaining a soft, pillowy interior. The horseradish cream added light heat, counterbalanced by the savory-sweet onion marmalade, and rosemary au jus was served on the side for dunking as desired.
All in all, we had an awesome time and chatted til closing, but was never hassled / rushed - and we were very happy that the meal + drinks totalled just $40 per person before tip. Though it was a rough start with the travel and long wait for a table, the drinks, food and attentive, friendly service to us made it all worthwhile. We left with full bellies, big smiles, and delicious memories (all thoughts of the stressful work week wiped from our minds) - and concluded that everything was definitely worth the (long) drive over, even during LA rush hour traffic. Things that would make this place even better: Happy Hour offering, and to finally take reservations.
In any case, we will see you again soon, Westside Tavern!
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%
10850 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90064
(Does not take reservations)