Chef Nick Shipp is a real darling man, and super talented. He has been at the helm here at The Upper West for a while. Upper West opened up in 2010, I came to their grand opening then, and in 2014 I did a fabulous review of The Upper West. Well I am here to tell you that the food has only gotten better. It was delicious back then but the little nuances have increased and everything I tasted tonight was exceptional, and spectacular.
About Upper West:
The Upper West is locally owned and operated since 2010. Upper West’s ever-changing menu draws inspiration from around the world while maintaining eclectic flavors of their very own.
Their bar offers a nightly happy hour from 5-7pm as well an all night happy hour every Monday that serves refreshing craft cocktails, handcrafted beer, and a unique array of small bites. Some of the local favorites happy small bites are braised pork belly lettuce wraps, sausage, and goat cheese quesadilla and lamb nachitos.
What makes The Upper West so special is that their Ingredients are sourced locally from the Santa Monica Farmers market as well as local farmers such as Weiser Farms, Niman Ranch, Jimenez Family Farm, and Harries Berries.
The interior is lively, but organically pleasing. Big tall-trussed ceilings add to the overall charm. The simplicity is the backdrop for their outstanding food. One of the interiors highlights; is that their wall art changes regularly, as they host one local artist for each season of the year. You too will find it enchanting and inviting, a great place to meet for a first date, excellent private party venue for hosting corporate events, birthdays, anniversaries, holiday festivities, rehearsal dinners or have a simple family dinner, but the real star of the show is their amazing food.
The Upper West values community involvement as well as participating and supporting local charities in Santa Monica such as LLS, Breast Cancer Awareness, Venice Family Clinic, Planned Parenthood and the local schools.
My waiter was the very handsome TJ, who was filled with only good vibes; he was as efficient as he was fun. The night I came the place was packed but TJ managed to check in on me, while taking good care of me, and serving my evenings meal.
Jen and James a very handsome young couple were sitting next to me, they offered up a taste of the Smoked Blue Cheese Chips, super yum, got to have a full order next time. But James really new the menu and they had a blast eating all of their favorites. You could tell that they were regulars.
They have a patio where they play great old films; the film that was playing that night, was the iconic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, always a great movie to watch.
Here’s what I tried:
The Westsider, with Belvedere Vodka, fresh pomegranate, Gifffard PampleMousse, and Rose Cava. A pungent drink, full of action packed ingredients that are guaranteed to blow your hair back. It’s refreshing and delicious.
Strawberry Fields, with Vodka, strawberry, basil, and lemonade. If you’re in the mood for a sweet cocktail then this would be for you, a nice way to start my experience.
Cucumber Martini Wheatley Vodka, cucumber, mint, and lemon. This would be my go-to drink, it’s elegant and a perfect thirst quencher, I just loved it.
Sweet Corn Soup, with a veggie fritter. My rule of thumb is that you can always tell so much about a restaurant by their soup, this one is a true winner. Rich corn flavors with a nice creamy edge, just perfect.
Ivette’s Spicy Salmon Crunchy Rice, with freeze dried soy sauce, wasabi tobiko, avocado puree, lime, jalapeno, and baby shiso. This appetizer is very Asian inspired with lush umami flavors, it is simply wonderful.
Chargrilled Octopus, with gigande bean, potato salad, orange, yuzu aioli, and smoked roe. The presentation is almost prehistoric, with one huge tentacle, but once you get past that you are in heaven. The flavors blend and your taste buds dance, just amazing.
“Baby” Baby Back Ribs, with lemongrass bbq sauce, pickled peppers, cilantro, and grilled pineapple. Too bad this is appetizer size; I could eat a whole entree plate of this. They ribs are succulent, tender and flavorful, a real treat.
Coffee Crusted Red Wattle Pork Tenderloin, with goat cheese mashed potatoes, roasted jalapeno applesauce, and citrus demi. The pork is super tender, but the real star for me is the goat cheese mashed potatoes. The combination of the potatoes and the pork is super dope.
Prime Flatiron Steak, with McDaniel smoked bacon, and Gorgonzola slaw. This steak is super smoky, which I just loved and the slaw added the right crunch, a nice unique steak from all the typical steaks at dining establishments.
Wild Mushrooms, with garlic, leeks, farro, and dried fig. I can’t say enough about this little darlings, super delicious.
Grilled Sweet Corn, with avocado butter, Cotija cheese, and smoked paprika. This side dish has a Latin twist, its packs some unique flavors, into one big side dish.
Key Lime Tart, with blueberry jam, coconut basil sorbet, and lavender whipped cream. This is something that Upper West is known for and you can see why once you dive into this luxurious new take on a real southern classic, you too will be hooked.
Chocolate Mousse Crunch Cake, with peanut butter ice cream, roasted marshmallow, and strawberry puree. If you’re a chocolate lover then this dessert is for you, and the ice cream is off the charts.
Chardonnay, Magnolia, Russian River Valley, CA., 2015. This is not a super buttery wine, but its enables the other flavors of the food to shine. I would do this wine with the Octopus.
Sauvignon Blanc, Les 7 Hommes, Sancerre, France, 2018. This is a grassy herbal wine; it went great with the salmon crunchy rice.
Seven Hills, Walla Walla Valley, Washington CA., 2014, a perfect combo with the flat iron steak.
Pinot Noir Purple Hands, Willamette Valley, OR, 2017. A nice light Pinot that can be paired easily with the glorious ribs.
Chef Nick Shipp is eager to accommodate. He was raised in Forth Worth, Texas. The “Funkytown” native began his cooking career at the early age of 15 and later attended the Culinary Institute of Dallas. Moving west to SoCal, he became immersed in the Wolfgang Puck franchise. Shipp’s culinary peers have chosen him to be in the inaugural edition of the Best Chefs of America 2013. His regional cuisine at The Upper West is creative and inspiring. Some menu items have been on since the beginning, and some others are a work in progress. Your taste buds will enjoy Chef Nicks Shipps blending and subtle nuances with every bite, has been described by food critics as a “mad scientist, where no two dining experiences are ever alike.”
Every month, Chef Nick gets to show off his culinary talents with a special pairing dinner co-hosted by select liquor brands who will walk you through each of the individual tasting notes in accompaniment with each course. They offer whiskey, gin, and wine dinners, with a small intimate group, and everyone always has a great time!
Next time your looking for a great meal and a fun environment try The Upper West, it’s a hidden gem in a super cool part of Santa Monica. Almost like you somewhere in Manhattan or San Francisco without the plane fare.
Quotes on their walls:
“There is no sincerer love then love of a food”, George Bernard Shaw.
“Whiskey is for drinking, water is for floating”, Mark Twain.
The Upper West
3321 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
* Note some content was taken off of their website.
This review is dedicated to Leslie Paonessa, she was a true fixture at The Upper West – enjoying her happy hours very regularly, and they even named a cocktail after her. To me she was a dear friend, The Upper West had her memorial, and they closed the restaurant for her remembrance. Chef Nick said some very sweet words about her as well. She will be very missed, cheers Leslie.