By The Taste Buds
Thanksgiving conveys different messages to different people. Families convene from all over the country to eat crazy amounts of food, and the holiday buyers start shopping almost before their turkey has had time to digest. The annual holiday music wave starts up, and lingers until the New Year. After so much festivity in such a short amount of time, it helps to break away for a time and relax. A bit of self-reflection and soul food can go a long way, so weigh your options and try something familiar, yet unique. Taste and experience the splendor of West.
The concept of West originated from a particular need – the need for a familiar, yet unique dining experience in Oklahoma. Back in 2007, brothers Rick and David Haynes, longtime owners of Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler and the more recent Pachinko Parlor, mulled over Oklahoma’s dining dilemma. They envisioned something unique and modern, with the metropolitan feel of larger cities. In 2009, Executive Chef Eric Smith returned from Chicago and teamed up with the Haynes’ to perfect the contemporary soul food bistro concept with his personal expertise in the culinary field. With the trio soon hard at work, West came together with outstanding results, opening for business Thanksgiving week of 2010.
West pays serious attention to the details. Everything from the banquettes to the volume of the background music creates an open, relaxed mood to the restaurant. Outdoor seating includes patio heaters and a polished fence to protect against wind. Best of all, you can bring your canine friend along for patio dining. Indoor seating includes window tables or booths for a more secluded, low-lighting dining experience. West allows you to dine in total relaxation whether you’re with family, friends, a date, or simply dropping in for a bite with your canine sidekick.
West’s bar manager, Andy, ensures that a top-notch selection of seasonal drinks and fine wines is always at hand. The genuinely elaborate bar and wine cellar are visible throughout the restaurant, and the drink menu complements the Oklahoma weather, whatever the season. In fall, expect a wide selection of citrusy beverages for the warm, humid days, and an array of heartwarming beverages to accommodate the crisper, colder times. Along with the eye-catching on-menu list of wines, Andy maintains an off-menu selection available on request. From reserve wines to popular demands, you can expect the finest wines of the region to be available for your dining experience.
The atmosphere may be exceptional at West, but the food is even better, with comfort food to warm your heart. We started our experience with the Warm West Chips – freshly-cut and fried potato crisps tossed in a bleu cheese fondue and lightly drizzled with balsamico, then sprinkled with crumbled bleu cheese and served warm. They were crispy and rich, with a smooth, sweet resolve. Other popular choices include Rosemary Chicken Skewers with spicy peanut sauce, Zuccha Chips (flash-fried zucchini), Homemade Onion Rings and Sesame-Encrusted Ahi Tuna served with whipped avocado and tempura asparagus.
To accompany our appetizer, we sampled the freshly made Cranberry & Jalapeño cocktail, one of West’s “Skinnies.” Muddled cranberries and silver tequila are shaken with jalapeño, lime and agave nectar for a crisp, fruity drink that culminates in a delightful after burn. The “Skinnies” are West’s low-carb selection of cocktails and mixed drinks, all clocking in at around 130 calories or less, made with fresh ingredients and juices. “Skinnies” include the Mojito, Margarita and Kort’s Peach & Poblano.
West’s seasonal mixed drinks often change, so keep on the lookout for a new selection of beverages. Their fall offerings include the divine Callebaut Hot Chocolate, made with your choice of Godiva White or Dark Liqueur, and topped with a house-made marshmallow torched to campfire perfection before serving. Other fall cocktails include Cider, Caramel Apple Martini and Cranberry & Citrus Fizz.
As a first course, the unique Brussels Sprout Salad is an absolute must, even if you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts. The combination of blanched Brussels sprouts and almonds was nutty and fresh, complemented by the addition of dried apricots, garlic red wine vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan cheese for a mix of sweet, bold and tangy flavors. Other salads include the Chopped Grilled Asparagus, Grilled Caesar Salad or Spinach Salad. A meal in itself is the Beef Tenderloin Salad, topped with roasted corn, blue cheese crumbles and shaved egg with a creamy red wine vinaigrette. To get you through the bitterly cold days, try fresh Tomato Basil Soup with grilled cheese croutons or brandy-infused French Onion Soup.
A first glance of the seasonal menu shows a variety of available comfort foods, starting with Chicken Chili Verde or Grilled Salmon salad; entrées include a Frittata, Pulled Pork Sandwich, and the West Hot Ham and Cheese – grilled and served on Tuscan bread, so large, it was cut into thirds. It was filled with creamy Gruyere cheese and shaved ham, complete with cherry/apricot chutney to pull the creamy and bold flavors together. Choose from sides like Sweet Potato Fries, West Mac & Cheese, Homemade Onion Rings and Brown Butter Corn.
Sandwich lovers will find more selections from their regular menu – West Beef Tenderloin, Salmon Club, Portobello Caprese and West Grilled Cheese, made with herbed ricotta, mozzarella, goat cheese and pesto on Tuscan bread. “Johnnie’s Meets West” burger selection includes Caesar, Cheese Theta, House-made Veggie or House-made Chicken burgers, with a list of additions that include six different cheeses, hummus, guacamole, bacon and more.
Pasta dishes include Bow Tie Pasta with Smoked Salmon, Penne Arrabiata, Penne al Pesto, Angel Hair Pomodoro, Rigatoni and the vegetarian Penne Ratatouille. We sampled the West Bolognese, which consists of wide pappardelle noodles topped with a thick, hearty pomodoro sauce made from ground beef, veal, Italian sausage, aromatic vegetables and Parmesan cheese, served with a slice of garlic bread. This is Italian comfort food at its finest.
A modern take on an old classic, the deconstructed Chicken Vegetable Pot Pie consisted of whipped potatoes, smoked chicken, English peas, roasted asparagus, fresh corn and aromatic vegetables, crowned with a flaky puff pastry lid. As far as chicken pot pies go, this entrée is one of the best we have ever tasted, defined by the fusion of contemporary, simple cooking with an elaborate home-style recipe.
Seafood entrées include Ahi Tuna, Fish Tacos, West Fish & Chips and the Roasted Salmon, a seven-ounce cut of salmon roasted until pink and flaky, served over sautéed spinach, with a side of ratatouille, and drizzled with blood orange balsamic vinaigrette. Light, healthy and flavorful.
Known for their USDA Prime steaks, we sampled a recent addition – Steak and Enchiladas, served with Spanish rice. Eight ounces of sliced filet of beef sat atop two enchiladas filled with sweet corn and a blend of goat and Chihuahua (originating from Chihuahua, Mexico) cheeses. This dish tasted as good as it looked! The delicately seasoned beef filet melted in the mouth, perfectly complemented by the enchiladas and rice.
A trio of fall desserts kicks off with their signature Westover (a homemade turnover) for fall – Apple, served warm with cinnamon gelato. The Pumpkin Bread Pudding starts with brioche, pumpkin, spices and cream cheese, topped with bourbon glaze, and ends with a drizzle of caramel and crème anglaise. The glaze perfectly complemented the seasonal blend of flavors, while the fresh aroma and taste of pumpkin shined through with a familiar yet sophisticated aftertaste.
Finally, Banana Cake For Two is a small tower of sinful sweetness – moist slices of banana cake were arranged in a river of tangy strawberry/Southern Comfort sauce, topped with scoops of panna cotta gelato and whipped peanut butter, and garnished with a sprinkling of chocolate shavings. This is a rich, decadent dessert … but why do they insist we share it?