“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” – George Bernard Shaw
This quote painted on the wall of Upper West is a fitting introduction to this thriving addition to the Santa Monica dining scene. The modern American restaurant putting fresh twists on comfort food since Feb. 2010 was packed on my Monday visit. It seems to have been embraced by Santa Monica locals (Yelp it and you’ll see 4 stars with over 300 reviews), but is especially busy right now because their veggie burger was featured last week in the LA Times (here’s the recipe). Browse the dinner menu and you’ll see familiar dishes, but with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and a deft touch. The concept reminds me of another solid spot, Luna Park.
We begun the meal with braised lamb crepes, prepared with madras curry, wilted spinach, Israeli feta, and lavender demi ($10). It had the perfect amount of curry, prominent but not overpowering the flavor of the lamb. I recommend sharing this appetizer since it is quite rich.
For main dishes, we went with two favorites that have been on the menu since they opened. The chile spiced salmon ($22) was served on a bed of blue lake beans, Israeli couscous, sweet tomatoes, piquillo, and fennel butter. The salmon was prepared well, and I especially appreciated the texture and flavors added by the vegetables and couscous. Not only is it satisfying, but you won’t feel guilty after wiping your plate clean since it’s a relatively healthy alternative to most American comfort cuisine.
The braised short ribs ($24) are another Upper West favorite. This “steak and potato” dish is made up of 6-hour braised rib, root vegetable pan gravy, Fresno chili, and parsnip-fennel puree. The ribs were rich, the puree creamy, and the crunch added by the red bell peppers were a highlight of the meal.
While it’s not much to look at, I was a big fan of the Glenlivet Snake bite cocktail ($12). Made with Glenlivet 12 year, St.Germain, and a splash of Laphroaig 10 year, it had the right balance of smoke and sweetness. Quite drinkable and approachable to non-Scotch drinkers. I was tempted to order another one, but decided to explore more of the cocktail menu and ordered the Honey Rye ($10). Made iwth Old Overholt rye, Barenjager honey liqueur, and orange bitters, it was a solid rye cocktail but paled in comparison to the Snake Bite. I omitted the picture since it looks very similar to the snake bite as well. In addition to having a cocktail list that has something for everyone, they also have a solid draft beer list. Next time I’ll have to try the beer flight for $11 that gets you a taste of any four beers.
When it came time to choose a side, the caramelized cauliflower with sage, parmesan, and chili flakes caught my eye ($6.50). As with much of the menu, it sounded like a respectful preparation that didn’t break any new ground, but was well-thought out. The cauliflower had a nice texture and while most of it was delicious, the pieces that had been sitting in the sauce were a bit too salty.
All in all, I had a wonderful time at Upper West. It’s a great spot in a relatively quiet stretch of Santa Monica, and I will definitely be back for happy hour (see Vixen L.A.’s review). And to try their veggie burger. Oh, and the regular burger as well, which I’ve also heard good things about. It’s not somewhere I’d drive across town for, but a great option if you’re looking for a meal in the area.
Happy Hour Everyday from 5-7 PM & all night Monday
Drink Specials: $6 Specialty cocktails. $4 glasses of red or white wine, and appetizer specials
Tuesdays: 50% off all bottles of wine
Wednesdays: Special 3 Course Dinners for $32
3321 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA. 90404
Disclosure: This meal was hosted