Spending all day eating and not particularly loving anything makes for a grumpy Monster. So it was with high hopes that we walked into the last of the Zagat restaurants in Ventura, Westside Cellar. Number fourteen on the final countdown.
They agreed to open up and serve us early so things were looking up. We sat by the window and watched the glitterati of Ventura walk by. This included many people in non-ironic hoodies, lots of overweight couples smoking and at least two different people on rollerskates. One of them fell. The Monster laughed.
Hard wood floors, a brick walled room with a fireplace and a bit of a Moroccan feel with the color scheme (maroon, burnt ochre) – that’s Westside Cellar. Not a bad looking room but the art is semi-atrocious. Actually, the art is just atrocious. Should The Monster be worried because the art is bad? Do people with bad taste in art cook good food?
Fresh bread with butter and a sundried tomato and olive (damn you) tapenade starts off the meal. The bread was good. Crusty and hot, Mr. and Mrs. Monster went through about four loaves.
The menu plays it pretty safe. Standard American fare. Duck breast, filet mignon, fresh fish of the day. We ticked off all the seafood dishes and settled in.
The shrimp scampi were large, slightly undercooked and the sauce with capers didn’t pack the punch you’d want. Not a complete miss but not a win either. Maybe eating in Ventura is just a lose no matter what.
The crab cakes however were a winner. With a coconut Thai curry sauce and slightly spicy mango salsa this dish was delicious. That being said, has anyone really had bad crab cakes? In the pantheon of cooking, crab cakes would appear to be the easiest dish imaginable.
We got the fish special with potato puree (uh, that’s mash potatoes folks), two jumbo prawns (again, undercooked), and garlic in a plum tomato beurr blanc. The fish was well cooked, the sauce a touch too salty. This dish was a draw.
One negative for a place that is a restaurant/wine store was serving Mrs. Monster a glass of wine from a bottle that had gone bad. While it happens in the best of places, it’s never an auspicious sign.
The waiter was accommodating and friendly without being obtrusive. Between refilling our water every two minutes (we’re thirsty Monsters) and getting countless loaves of bread it probably didn’t feel like we were the only people eating in the restaurant.
Why go? You’re in Ventura and really need to satiate your crab cake jonesing.
Monster rating: 3 Monsters
222 East Main Street
Ventura, CA 93001