CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN
WESTWOOD JOINT GETS NEW LOOK & MENU
Whenever I think of California Pizza Kitchen (CPK), I always think of BBQ Chicken Pizza. A close runner up is their Chinese Chicken Salad. I think those are the only two dishes I’ve had at CPK; that is until the Westwood CPK unveiled its new look and menu. The Westwood restaurant is the first CPK to undergo what the brand is calling its “Next Chapter” makeover, which will take place at 80 CPK locations nationwide this year.
The revamped CPK now features a more welcoming and relaxed, yet upscale feel. "We're pleased to be able to introduce the new menu showcasing seasonal dishes, locally sourced ingredients and globally inspired flavors to complete the 'Next Chapter' feel of the restaurant," said General Manager Michelle Rhine.
New design and menu highlights include sustainable materials, rustic décor, fabrics from recycled materials (think oak floors, tabletops and chairs from reclaimed wood and stone countertops) along with a natural herb garden. The new menu showcases seasonal dishes, locally sourced ingredients and globally inspired flavors.
The centerpiece of Westwood CPK is the open kitchen, where food is prepared from scratch, allowing guests to watch as artisan pizzas are hand-tossed and baked in an hearth-baked oven, as well as new main dishes like fire-grilled rib-eye and roasted halibut.
"We are upping our game with this transformation, which we call The Next Chapter," said G. J. Hart, CEO of California Pizza Kitchen. "Taking the best of our history and soul and innovating to make it current for today's sophisticated guest, the new look, menu and experience creates a space to relax and unwind in a welcoming neighborhood environment."
During our recent weekday visit for lunch at a packed CPK Westwood, I must say the new menu pleasantly surprised me. First of all, the cocktails didn't suck! I had very low expectations for CPK cocktails I must confess, which is lame on my part, but who knew you could go to CPK for good handcrafted drinks? The winner, hands down, was the California Roots made with Svedka Vodka, fresh avocado and mint, fresh agave sour with a fennel salt rim. I usually skip vodka drinks and I'm not a fan of mint, yet this drink was damn tasty. It's rich and frothy because of the avocado, yet subtle because of the vodka. I'll put this up against any chain restaurant cocktail for sure, and it can hold its own against most bars in LA. Way to go CPK!
We started our feast, OK, I admit, it was my birthday so I didn't mind going to town at lunch, with the Spicy Chicken Tinga Quesadilla, prepared with lime chicken, Monterey Jack, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, black beans and fresh cilantro, baked in the CPK hearth oven and served with house made ranchito sauce. This is a solid starter if you're sharing. If you're eating solo, I'd skip it to try other dishes but this, and a salad, would make a great on-the-go meal. The Avocado Club Egg Rolls—hand-wrapped crispy wonton rolls filled with avocado, chicken, tomato, Monterey Jack and Nueske's applewood smoked bacon also served with ranchito sauce and herb ranch—is another great starter, but best if you're sharing a big meal like we did.
The California Fields Salad came highly recommended so we decided to let that be our starter greens dish. This one can also be a healthy meal on its own. Prepared with fresh watermelon, strawberries and field greens, it's served with house made Champagne vinaigrette, Feta and California pistachios. This is a terrific light and fresh salad.
Now here is where CPK really impressed me. Looking for a hearty dish, we went with the Fire-Grilled Rib-eye. This marks the first time that CPK has had a steak on its menu. I never thought of going to CPK for steak but let me tell you, this was fantastic! It's a 12-oz USDA choice rib-eye grilled with house made Pinot Noir sea salt and topped with creamy bleu cheese butter, and served with roasted fingerling potatoes and lemon-garlic arugula salad. At $26, this is one of the best deal, let alone steaks that I've had in a while—and it's a fraction of the price for what you'd pay for a "quality steak" at some of the better restaurants in town. I'm sure that bleu cheese butter wasn't good for me but it made everything taste all the better.
I don't know if you consider flatbreads as an appetizer or an entrée but I just had to try the Maine Lobster Flatbread and it delighted—as an app or main dish. You know you can trust a CPK flatbread and they're not stingy with the lobster and this is a great dish to share, as it's a bit much (and rich) for just one person.
If you want more hearty choices for your meal, the Chicken Tequila Fettuccine with creamy jalapeño lime sauce with spinach fettuccine, red onions, bell peppers and fresh cilantro is a satisfying and filling option. Likewise, the Roasted Artichoke + Spinach crispy thin crust pizza is a good alternative If you're looking for something other than the classic Original BBQ Chicken Pizza. With oven-roasted artichoke hearts, roasted garlic, sautéed spinach, Mozzarella and Parmesan, this is another rich and filling dish that really satisfies (prepare for a guilt trip afterwards if you're like me).
If you're looking for another drink, (and who doesn't really?), I found the Coconut Blossom with Hanger 1 "Mandarin Blossom" Vodka, Casamigos Tequila Blanco, fresh agave sour, Perfect Purée Coconut, and fresh pineapple too sweet for my taste. I expected the Blueberry Ginger Smash, with Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, Monin Organic agave nectar, Domaine de Canton Ginger, fresh blueberries and lime and cranberry juice, to be sweet and it was but not sickeningly so.
While I'm not much of a margarita drinker anymore, as I'd rather just drink good tequila on its own, I was a fan of the Platinum Margarita with Patrón Silver Tequila, fresh agave sour and limejuice. It was pretty damn impressive. And I loved the spice in the Citrus Adobo Margarita made with Casamigos Tequila Blanco, fresh agave sour, Cointreau, chipotle adobo, and fresh orange and lime. Give it up to CPK for using quality spirits in its cocktails.
If you save room for dessert, go for the Butter Cake. The menu says "just try it." So we did and it was pretty damn epic. I'm sure it cut a few months off my lifetime but it was worth it. Now I'm a big fan of liquid dessert and the B-52 Coffee with Baileys Irish Cream and Grand Marnier really hit the spot. I'm not a big coffee drinker but caffeine and booze isn't a bad thing. I also tried their Irish Coffee with Jameson Irish Whiskey and that was a great pick me up after such a hearty lunch.
Way to go CPK…new look, new menu, and a new convert in me. Any night with a California Roots drink and that kick ass rib-eye is a good time in my book.
California Pizza Kitchen Westwood is located at 1001 Broxton Avenue. Call 310-209-9197.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy of:California Pizza Kitchen Westwood