Balance is something often forgotten in the world of restaurants. So many places either focus on high concept—forgetting the factor of merely making people happy—while others stress “comfort food” staples to the point of predictability. That’s why Upper West is such a pleasant surprise.
Located on a stretch of Pico that mostly has destination restaurants (Valentino, Josie) or neighborhood near-dives (The Aresenal), Upper West certainly provides a welcome change to those in Venice, West LA or south Santa Monica looking for something approachable but still creative, romantic and fun.
The space is simple—raw concrete, high lofty ceilings, a few modern touches mixed with retro flair (classic Hollywood pics, a telephone booth) and a cool glassed-in patio overlooking flower boxes with herbs the kitchen actually uses.
Chef Nichoas Shipp (ex-Wolfgang Puck Events, Pete’s Café) isn’t taking the easy road either. Though the menu’s framework may seem simple and unintimidating, his apps, salads, sandwiches and entrée plates play with ethnic motifs and gastro-pub inspirations (sometimes in gutsy ways) without losing the core concepts.
For example, rather than do a simple Caprese salad, Shipp takes creamy Distefano burrata and combines it with a crunchy tart apple panzella salad with cherry tomatoes, blackberries and camomile salt, a daringly successful dish. His port-braised leg of lamb in madras curry crepes (with feta and lavender) have a subtle complexity, ethnic and elegant at the same time. Entrees like the culotte steak are more straightforward, letting this juicy, flavorful cut speak for itself, while his burger is done to smoky flavor-spouting just-barely-holding-together perfection (order it plain, it has all the flavor you need).
And you don’t want to miss his chipotle-sauced fries, a spicy twist on poutine that is irresistible.
Upper West’s cocktail list doesn’t want for creative touches either—try the zesty Ginger Cosmo or the palate-teasing Peperoncini Martini–with a nice variety of wines and well-selected beers too.
Looking for the place to have an effortless date or undistracted conversation? This is easy.
Upper West is located at 3321 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, 310.586.1111