By Jill Weinlein, 10/18/2012
Walking into the Upper West restaurant off Pico Blvd., I admired the colorful paintings by French artist Humbert Curcuru. One of the owners of the restaurant, Mr. Fred, explained to me that the “Art Vault” on the walls of his restaurant, rotates a new artist every three months. “We hold an opening reception for the featured artist with light appetizers and wine,” he said.
Due to the restaurant’s proximity of multiple production companies, a few producers from the hit television show, “Mad Men”, came into the restaurant recently, enjoyed a meal and purchased a few of Curcuru’s pieces for the show.
Chef Nick Shipp recently hosted a special multi-course dinner to benefit the Junior Blind of America. The restaurant donated 100 percent of the proceeds to organization. Visually impaired since birth, this creative chef invited young chefs with little vision to help him make a multi-course dinner for 45 diners.
The restaurant has a New York-style feel with its soaring 28-foot ceiling and urban casual décor. It’s more of a modern American bistro, than a gastropub. “We have all ages dine here,” Fred said. “Early Saturday evenings we attract a mature crowd. By 7 p.m. the age is 40-something. By 8:30 p.m. a younger crowd come in for drinks and comfort food.”
Upper West teams up with the nearby McCabe’s Guitar Center. Before or after a concert at McCabe’s, Upper West offers a free glass of wine or discount on a meal when a diner shows his ticket stub. Upper West offers the same deal for theatre patrons seeing a production at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre and The Broad Stage.
Fred supports the organization, Run for Her, a non-profit organization started by a mom battling ovarian cancer for 10 years. When the organization holds a cocktail party at Upper West, a percentage of the sales goes towards their cause.
The kitchen is run by Chef Shipp and sous chef Angel Rodriguez. To start, we tried the roasted corn soup, offered on the lunch and dinner menu. Adorned with bright orange sumac oil and a black bean falafel, the smooth soup is an ideal starter during the autumn and winter months.
The roasted veggie burger with grilled pineapple relish, avocado, piquillo pepper, tomato aioli arrived on a shiny, toasted brioche bun from Ca’d’Oro Bakery.
During the late afternoon and early evening, locals come sit along the 27-foot bar, and order one of the 12 beers on tap. Colorful chalkboards list the daily beers, wines and signature cocktails offered. The owners change up the food and beverage menus every three weeks.
We ordered the chicken and fennel sausage salad with a sliced sausage next to a bed of butter lettuce, Napa cabbage, bell peppers, cucumber and sliced fennel. Chef Shipp’s mac and cheese and braised lamb crepes are popular dishes too.
For lunch, order a classic savory meatloaf sandwich on a soft Cuban roll or the flavorful Cobb salad dressed in blue cheese and wrapped in a wheat tortilla.
Dinners include a pan seared Morro Bay black cod on a green pea puree or Diver scallops crudo with reduced sour orange, a peach-basil salsa, crushed coffee, tomato syrup and cilantro.
Meat lovers will enjoy the pan roasted filet mignon, flatiron steak or braised short ribs. No dinner entrée is over $30. Most are around $24. Patrons who enjoy seafood will enjoy the pan roasted barramundi, seared tuna on toasted focaccia, chile spiced salmon, lobster gnocchi, and giant colossal shrimp.
For dessert, the triple chocolate torte is served with marshmallow fluff and a round scoop of coffee ice cream, a rich fudge-like dish.
They also offer a classic root beer float, key lime tart and a brioche bread pudding with rye whiskey caramel and crème anglaise.
Upper West is open for lunch Mon. through Fri. from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Happy Hour starts on Mon. from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; on Tues. through Sun. it’s offered from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dinner begins at 5 p.m. On Tuesday nights, all wine bottles are discounted 50 percent. Foodies enjoy the restaurant’s monthly food and drink pairing dinner for $55 per person. $$. 3321 W. Pico Blvd. (310)586-1111.