A WESTSIDE GO-TO FOR DRINKS & DELISH EATS
For anyone on the west side along busy Pico Boulevard looking for a great place to escape traffic, enjoy a good cocktail or fine glass of wine, and relish a good, hearty meal, then Upper West is a place you already love or a destination you need to be made aware of.
Serving delicious contemporary American cuisine with a global influence courtesy of Chef Nick Shipp, Upper West is a local’s favorite and thrives on a fun and energetic energy that helps create a good time whenever you’re there. Happy Hour runs from 5-10pm on Mondays and the bar stays open late Friday and Saturday. Even their bathroom artwork is irreverent. And don’t forget Tuesday night all wine bottles are half price.
During our recent visit for dinner, a cocktail was in order after braving busy westbound traffic. A great start to any night is the fiery Macallan Snake Bite made with Macallan 10-yr, St. Germain, a splash of Laphroaig 10-yr, grapefruit bitters and served on a rock. You really have to hand it to the bar program for crafting a well balanced yet potent drink with strictly top shelf booze. Nice touch! The quality spirits combine to make a pleasant and stiff drink. It’ll definitely take the edge off.
A great comfort food starter item is the Roasted Corn Soup with black bean falafel and sumac oil. Soothing and savory, there’s a lot of flavor in this hot dish.
Looking for a nice, fresh salad? The Charred Broccoli, a wonderful mix of local spinach, sundried tomato, raisins, feta vinaigrette, balsamic syrup, and garlic-ciabatta croutons, is a fine choice. This is a great, guilt free option perfect to share.
Other fine side dishes include the Miso Glazed Duck & Apple Meatballs, prepared with ramen noodle, kombu broth, edamame, housemade mustard, shitake mushrooms, Vietnamese herbs, and Serrano, along with the healthier Brussel Sprouts with andouille dried cherries and grain mustard, and the Roasted Potato with Hepp’s black truffle salt and cilantro pesto. All of these are really tasty choices, and again, great to share if you’re eating family style. If you’re on your own, you may want to go with the hearty meatballs as your choice.
Time for another cocktail, I was won over by the Honey Rye, a bold mix of Old Overholt Rye, Barenjager honey liqueur, orange bitters, served on the rocks with an orange peel garnish. A favorite of Bon Appetit Magazine, this cocktail again uses quality ingredients and delivers a nice finish with the proper amount of kick.
Beloved for its Burger, featuring a house ground blend of short rib and chuck, I was really tempted to try this bad boy but I’ll just have to try it on my next visit. Instead, I went with the fabulous Braised Pork Belly, prepared with fennel, apple and chorizo hash, prosciutto crackling, harrisa, and tomato syrup. There’s just so much damn flavor in this dish.
Likewise, the Coffee Crusted Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin, served with goat cheese potato puree, roasted jalapeño apple sauce, and citrus demi, is a winner if you have an appetite. I strongly suggest sharing plates but if you’re flying solo or are with someone who doesn’t like to share, this is a no nonsense choice that really delivers.
Cocktail wise, Upper West offers one of the best deals in town with its Whiskey Flight where you can choose any four bourbons, ryes or Irish whiskies for $18. I mixed and matched my way to heaven and tasted Jameson Gold Reserve (a harmonious blend and my absolute favorite), Red Breast 12-yr, Larceny (this is a very small batch established in 1870), and Whistle Pig 10-yr. It doesn’t really get any better than this. Other options include Michael Colins, Power’s Gold, Buffalo Trace, Bulleit Rye, High West, Old Overholt, and Rittenhouse Rye, among others.
If you save room for dessert, the Peanut Butter Cheesecake, made with honey roasted peanut crust, strawberry puree, crushed roca, and sea salt (recommended pairing: JC Cellars Late Harvest Viogner) is a good decadent choice, as is the Carrot Cake Ice Cream Sandwich—think butterscotch carrot cake and cream cheese ice cream (recommended pairing: Vintage 1999 Port).
There’s nothing like a quality neighborhood hang, whether you’re just passing through or call the area home, especially if you relax and retreat to first rate cocktails and fine comfort fare.
Upper West is located at 3321 Pico Blvd in Santa Monica. Call (310) 586-1111.
By: Jose Martinez.
Some Photography courtesy of: Upper West