DTLA: All Aboard for Cocktails at Westbound
What I love about Downtown Los Angeles are all the pockets– the various districts that make up an intriguing city. And in the Arts district, there’s the new Westbound which bookends part of the One Santa Fe lofts. However, it’s part of a much earlier history. The interior throws back to a time this lot was part of the old Santa Fe Railway’s La Grand Station.
With that in mind, hop aboard and enjoy the ride.
If you’re in a train themed bar, it should only be natural to get The Conductor, which is Westbound’s variation of a whiskey sour. But it’s not just any whiskey sour. This one is quite intriguing with black sesame and instead of just lemon juice, head bartender Dee Ann Quinones uses tamarind to tease out that tartness of a good sour. The drinks in general are a nod to travel and with that mind, the ingredients seem quite exotic from faraway places.
The Conductor – Buffalo Trace bourbon, black sesame, tamarind, egg white, lemon
Chef Gary Nguyen and I found something in common. We grew up in the same area and went to the same schools. Local LA pals unite! The well-curated menu means every dish was worthy of consideration. Should we get this or that? Well, why not all of it?
Starting with snacks like gravlax cones and popcorn and moving on to larger plates that are designed to share, I mentally ran through a list of friends who I thought would enjoy such an adventurous menu. And I know just the person to take when she visits for her birthday in a month or so.
Other snacks available when I visited were oysters and ricotta and peas. I thought about the oysters but I was more tempted by the other offerings. Although I like things like oysters, cheese plates and charcuterie, I find I rather get into the chef’s frame of mind.
Dee let me taste her Bloody Mary she was working on for brunch service. Pickle fans are really going to like this one.
As mentioned I rather see what a chef can come up with and I’m really glad we tried the New Zealand tai snapper crudo. There were a myriad of flavors that just exploded. And it was such a beautiful presentation. This one would be hashtagged #beautifulfood for sure on Instagram. And the anchovies added extra unami to the snapper.
Westbound had both beef and beet tartare. After carefully pronouncing which one you wanted, you’re awarded with a thoughtful dish. I opted for beef and found everything well spiced. I really liked the candied pumpkin seeds which gave it a slight crunch.
I loved La Remedia, the grapefruit and gin drink of my dreams. Plus I’m a huge fan of pink peppercorn. This is the perfect summer drink and probably beyond considering how warm LA is throughout the year. The touch of sea salt keeps things lively and additional depth. Dee is a big fan of gin and tonics so I can see how that could evolve to this kind of drink.
La Remedia – Beefeater gin, watermelon, grapefruit, lemon, lime, pink peppercorn, sea salt
I decided I could eat just a bit more and the seasonal market vegetables caught my eye. Despite my love affair of meat, I also love veggies. And I loved how carefully plated this dish was, just like all the dishes that preceded it. Vegetables are not an afterthought and very much a main player. There were raw, pickled and poached veggies. Chef Gary really explored the bounty from the farmers market with this creation.
What a delicious name. Sinatra and Chanel is Westbound’s Old Fashioned cocktail variation. And check out that trendy stamped ice. It’s Westbound’s logo.
Sinatra and Chanel – Monkey Shoulder blended Scotch whisky, coco palm, frankinsense, sour cherry bitters
Just when I thought I could sneak out without dessert, I am glad I got to try the beet trifle. The whimsical orange cake with beet meringue is wonderful. I just loved the spring herb ice cream. And I would be failing my duty as a (food and) booze writer not to mention the brandy caramel.
Now back to making a list of who to invite to Westbound for my next culinary adventure.