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RESTAURANT REVIEW NEW ORLEANS WEST : Grill-Watching : Fine service, pleasant atmosphere, generous drinks, late lunch hours . . . and good food.

October 18, 1990|DAVID B. GOLDMAN

There's not much in the way of waterfront dining in inland Ventura County. But there is New Orleans West, located on that tiny piece of semi-navigable water for which Westlake Village is named. Call it Cajun by the lake.

It would be nice to be able to say that the jambalaya, the popcorn shrimp and the Louisiana sausage are a match for the soft, green lakeside environment that has developed in the midst of that giant subdivision. But that would not be quite accurate.

But there is enough well-prepared food on the menu to make a trip to the lake worthwhile; when you combine the quality of the food with the service and the atmosphere, you've got a lovely dining spot.

This is a good place to sit at the bar, next to the grill, and watch the chefs do their work. The bartenders pour a generous drink, and you can make a good meal from two or three appetizers. There are fresh oysters on the half-shell. And chicken fingers--strips of breaded white meat, fried and served in a fairly thick Cajun sauce--are good and spicy.

Le Troix Melt is a sandwich, but it actually makes a substantial meal. It's a multilayered sandwich with crab, salmon, chicken salad and cheese on sourdough bread. The first time I ordered it, the whole thing seemed cold and soggy. When I complained, however, the waitress took it right back and brought out a new sandwich that was chewy and sizzling hot.

Whether you're seated inside, at the bar overlooking the lake, or on the patio, there are certainly other substantial items. Seafood Casa Dorata is scallops, shrimp, crab and fish sauteed in lobster butter, garlic, brandy and cream. The brandy and cream sauce comes off fairly well, and you are offered a generous amount of seafood and fish; unfortunately, the seafood suffers slightly from overcooking. It's pretty much the same with the bouillabaisse, although I found that if you make a point of asking the waitress for your fish a little underdone, the kitchen responds well.

For dessert, skip the usual Cajun meal finisher, bread pudding (it's among the least distinguished I've eaten), and order the not too sweet cheesecake instead.

One thing I especially like in this sort of an environment? The fact that they serve lunch fairly late, until 3. So in inland Ventura County, you can now have a leisurely late lunch, or dinner, on the waterfront.

WHERE AND WHEN

New Orleans West, 32131 Lindero Canyon Blvd., Westlake Village, (818) 707-9378. Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m Sunday brunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday dinner until 10 p.m. (on weekends the bar is open until 12:30 a.m.) Major credit cards accepted. Reservations accepted. Full bar. Meal for two, food only, $20-$50.

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