Saturday night I made plans to meet up with my friend C for dinner. Having just learned that she would have to pay way more in taxes then originally planned, she was in need of some good food at some even better prices. So, we decided to try out the happy hour at Wilshire Restaurant. (A big HURRAY for places that have happy hour menus on the weekends!)We left behind the bright Santa Monica sunshine for the dimly lit bar. A brick wall covered in tea lights, dark leather furniture, and a wood paneled ceiling gave the place an intimate, trendy vibe. We scorned the comfy couches in favor of the bar stools, reasoning that it would be easier to eat that way. The bar area was half empty, mostly consisting of a crowd in their mid thirties to mid forties. (Then again, it was about 6:30 pm - that all may change after 9).
The happy hour menu was full of delectable sounding dishes, all between $8-$16 dollars. For a restaurant where just an appetizer will run you between $13-$20, this struck us as a pretty good deal. I would describe the cuisine as classic American all dressed up for a fancy night on the town. We decided to get two smaller plates and one larger and split everything.
C's call was the $8 Pizza with Burrata, Oak Roasted Tomato, Basil and Chili Flakes. The chili flakes packed a definite punch which contrasted nicely with the smooth burrata. The crust was thin and crispy and the whole pie was absolutely littered with fresh basil. (Yay - I love when chefs are generous with the fresh herbs!) I can't honestly say the tomatoes tasted particularly oak-y to me, but it was certainly a very flavorful pizza and I enjoyed every bite.
I have enjoyed a love of artichokes dating back to when my mom used to make them for us as kids. I thought that anything you could eat with your hands and dunk in butter had to be a great thing. So I was excited to try Wilshire's $8 Grilled Artichoke with Meyer Lemon Yogurt. Sadly, this did not live up to my childhood memories. The artichoke was served room temperature, and I wonder how long it sat around in the back waiting for the other dishes to be prepared. The meyer lemon yogurt was a great idea that didn't live up to it's potential. The tang of the yogurt contrasted nicely with the creamy artichoke heart, but I could barely detect any lemon in there. I may have to have a go at this in my own kitchen, because (now that I no longer have my teenage metabolism) it might be a good idea to start dunking artichokes in yogurt rather then butter.
The bartender told us his favorite dish was the $13 Chimay Ale Marinated Skirt Steak with Fries, so, of course, we had to give it a try. Let me take this opportunity to say: bartenders are incredibly wise people! The dish was far and away my favorite of the three. What a brilliant preparation of a not so spectacular cut of meat. Although the bartender neglected to ask us how we would like it prepared, it still emerged a perfect medium rare, surprisingly tender on the inside with a nice char on the outside. The ale did wonders, giving each bite a rich and meaty burst. And the fries, oh the fries!! Served beneath the steak, they had an opportunity to soak up all the delicious drippings. Paired with just a little salt and fried parsley, they rendered ketchup obsolete and became the sort of delectable little bites you keep eating long after you are full. Mmmm....now I'm starting to crave them....Huh? Oh...yes...right...back to meal!
A word from your blogger here - I adore dessert. I may actually be addicted to it. No meal feels complete without dessert (this includes lunch and sometimes even breakfast). Not a day goes by without my consuming at least one sweet treat...generally many. But, I am definitely a bit of a dessert snob - I will not be happy with candy bars from 7-11 or chocolate chip cookies from a package. So, when dining out, I am always eager to see what sugary visions the pastry chef has concocted. Therefore, although desserts are seldom found on Happy Hour menus, I will still be reviewing them:)
From the many tempting treats, C and I decided to go for the $10 Roasted Apple Fritter with Caramel Sauce and Cinnamon Ice Cream. WOW!! Although LA has a doughnut store on just about every corner, there is still something very special about apple fritters served raging hot just out of the fryer. The smell of dough and cinnamon wafted over us as the plate was set down, and all thoughts of taxes or heavy life decisions immediately vanished. First I tried all the elements separately. The fritter was crusty and crunchy on the outside, with the apples inside practically melting in your mouth. The whipped cream was heavy and fresh, the caramel sauce almost liquor like, and the cinnamon ice cream as flavorful as one could wish for. Taken all together in one spoonful it was heaven. The cinnamon ice cream brought out the spice on the fritters and the whipped cream wrapped it all up in a creamy hug. Amazing - go and try these fritters!!
All in all, I would give this Happy Hour three and a half out of five belt notches. Definitely worth trying!
Happy Hour is served Monday-Saturday from 5-7pm. (They even give you a ten minute warning before it ends which I thought was very kind of them - and they have their happy hour menu available online!)
Wilshire Restaurant is located at:
2454 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90403