They say good things come in small packages, and at 14 West fine dining comes in a small, intimate setting. Chef Tracy Lemmonds presents beautiful, well-crafted dishes, while the elegant atmosphere and service round out the dining experience.
From the appetizer menu, my table enjoyed Sesame Crusted Ahi, Tempura Battered Calamari, and Lobster Mac-n-Cheese–three distinctly different dishes that represent the somewhat eclectic menu. The rare Ahi was complemented by a wonderful combination of flavors and textures–spicy, sweet and salty flavors of mango, wasabi and soy glaze with the crunch of sesame seeds and tender, toothsome soba noodles. Yet despite all the flavors and textures, the steak-like rare Ahi was still the star.
Without question, the calamari was the best I’ve had in recent memory. Too often, calamari is overcooked, giving it a rubbery texture. But this was tender, and I liked the combination of the asian-style tempura batter with the tangy apricot chipotle sauce.
The Lobster Mac was everything macaroni and cheese should be. Think rich, creamy and decadent, then add perfectly cooked lobster claws. And just try to save room for the rest of your meal!
From the second course offerings we chose the Iceberg Wedge Salad and New England Clam Chowder. The wedge salad was more flavorful than most, with a Maytag bleu cheese dressing that had an assertive dill flavor and a garnish of chopped red onions. Personally, I loved the combination, but some at my table thought it was a bit much. We could all agree, however, that the chowder was excellent. The texture was just slightly less thick than traditional clam chowder, but no less creamy, and it had a wonderful smokey bacon flavor that while noticeable, did not overpower the sweetness of the crab.
When the Lobster Rabini entree arrived at the table, I was worried that the flavor would not stand up to the magnificent (although phallic) presentation. I had nothing to worry about. Tender lobster tail, jumbo shrimp, sherry caper sauce. What’s not to like? Nothing. It was perfection.
And although the presentation of the Lamb Shank (locally grown at Viking Farms) was less elegant, it was no less impressive. There’s something about a huge plate of bone-in meat that just makes you want to put your face in it. But I managed to show some restraint and use my fork (no knife necessary, this was fall-off-the-bone tender). The lamb is accompanied with a corn risotto that really works with the strong wine and lamb flavors.
The Chilean Sea Bass was the only disappointment of the evening. Although the menu says “seared” it was battered and fried. What a terrible way to treat such a lovely fish! It tasted fine, but sea bass should never be “just fine”. I did enjoy the complexity of the red wine risotto that it was served atop, however it was slightly undercooked. Another minute or so in the pan would have created risotto perfection.
Of course no meal is complete without dessert. If you read my earlier post about Tavern on South, you know that I have very high standards when it comes to sweets. 14 West did not disappoint. The carrot cake with Grand Marnier frosting is quite simply the best carrot cake I’ve ever had. I would challenge even carrot-cake haters to find fault with it.
The creme brulee was traditionally prepared and had the perfect not too thin, not too thick texture. And our server even noted that it was my birthday and dressed the plate accordingly.
For superior service, great ambiance and impressive food, I give 14 West on overall rating of 3.0. Here’s the breakdown:
Price = $$$
Deliciousness = 3 (Excellent)
Ambiance = 3 (A Feast for the eyes)
Service =4 (Staff is proficient in fine dining service)
Bang for Your Buck = 2 (Overall experience justifies the price)
Overall Dining Experience = 3.0 (Excellent/Superior)
Click here for an explanation of my Restaurant Rating System.