My parents were recently in town and I took that opportunity to finally visit a great upper west side restaurant that has been on my “list” of places to try for waaaaay too long. I can’t explain why it took me 7 years to eat at Ouest — I’ve heard nothing but good things and it’s only 5 blocks away from my apartment. But there you have it, 7 years came and went and I finally walked through the doors leading to a small, intimate dark-wood bar, a short hall of cozy red leather booths and a hidden, unexpectedly spacious dining room in the back. Despite the soaring ceilings and a second level platform where more diners overlook the main room, Ouest provides a warm and sophisticated environment with oversized mirrors and almost circus tent-like chandeliers creating a red glow over the round red leather seating.
The atmosphere was not the only thing that did not disappoint. I was craving greens, so I started with an appetizer that doesn’t sound like anything spectacular, but just like the unexpected, hidden dining room, this dish was one more surprise worth noting. The Mixed Seasonal Greens with Herbed Red Wine-Parmesan Vinaigrette comes out as a beautifully stacked sculpture of curly, crunchy leaves, lightly dressed in the most wonderfully simple, but flavorful vinaigrette. Nothing fancy — no croutons or crumbled cheese to get in the way of the fresh greens and its companion dressing. Note to diners — the salad was large enough that it could easily be shared between two, even three people.
For my entree I got the Pan Seared Diver Scallops with Fennel-Mint Risotto and Autumn Mushrooms. And yes, this too tasted just as fantastic as it sounds. The perfectly cooked seared scallops sat atop a bed of creamy risotto that was slightly sweet from the roasted fennel, fresh and herby from the mint, and earthy from the bits of mushroom. I was reluctant to share a bite, but that also probably made room for dessert!
This is when I can’t refrain from dessert. Every course has been so noteworthy, I don’t want the meal to end. And I convince myself that dessert cannot be missed or the entire dining experience will be hopelessly incomplete. And I was right. The Peanut Butter-Chocolate “Bombe” with Spanish Peanuts & Warm Chocolate Sauce was as tasty as it was beautiful. Nothing goes better with chocolate than peanut butter, as was confirmed in each bite. I would say the sauce could have been warmer, but I was already won over by the entire meal and was willing to let it slide.
The Skim: Pricing falls on the higher end, but if you’re looking for a special occasion outting or have a few dollars you’re willing to trade for a memorable meal, I would highly suggest a trip to the upper Ouest side. Everything from the warm ambiance, to precise service and a stellar menu makes for a meal worth going north of 14th street for.