West 14th Steakhouse looks the part, but fails to impress.
Restaurant review: West 14th Steakhouse
West 14th is a New York-style steakhouse, and the decor is intended to match, with red leather seats, moody lighting and exposed brick walls. The restaurant spills out on to an attractive terrace, but be warned, the difference in vibe between the inside and outside left us wishing we hadn't been swayed by the lovely view. The al fresco option just felt a bit too casual; service wasn't quite attentive enough and compared to the smartly dressed waiters and waitresses inside, our waiter's baseball cap-and-shorts combination seemed rather at odds with the general feel of the place.
Still, this wouldn't have mattered a jot had the food been up to scratch.
The good news: my Pacific oysters were cold, clean and fresh, with a salty tang and a slight sweetness, which was highlighted by a tart shallot vinaigrette. Not bad at all. The same could not be said for my friend's order of shrimp cocktail, however: what arrived was a large plate with three small pieces of prawn meat, doused in a marie rose style dressing that tasted primarily of mayonnaise. The creaminess of the accompanying mango and cucumber slaw didn't make sense to me. Why present these two fresh ingredients bound in a sauce that adds to, rather than offsets, the richness of the marie rose? Worst of all was a single piece of battered prawn (the outside soggy and barely warm), which was served (as my friend discovered after taking a bite) with the shell still on - so there was a layer of batter, then the shell, with the prawn meat underneath.
We sat back and hoped that things would improve with the main courses. Both of our steaks (a 180g US tenderloin and a Wagyu strip loin) were cooked as requested (rare and medium respectively) and were well seasoned and tasty. They weren't exceptional, though, and there are better steaks to be had in Dubai (particularly at Asado and Rhodes Twenty10). Aside from my peppercorn sauce (which was creamy with a nice, slow-burning heat) everything else that we ordered was disappointing. The Béarnaise sauce was simply too buttery to be enjoyable; that might sound like a bizarre complaint for an accompaniment that is made for the most part from butter, but had we been able to decipher the anise flavour of the tarragon or a hint of shallot, it would have taken the edge off.
A green salad looked wan and was dressed with olive oil but nothing else (no salt to bring out the flavour or lemon or vinegar to lift it), and the fries were the biggest let down of all. In place of crispy slivers of fried potato - fluffy on the inside, with a golden crunchy exterior - we were given thick-cut chips that were too firm in the centre and ever so slightly soggy on the outside.
During the course of the meal, nothing we ordered arrived at the table piping hot. Yes, we did sit outside, but we could see the kitchen from our table, so that really isn't an excuse.
West 14th does offer diners a couple of unique touches (a mustard trolley, the chance to select a steak knife of your choice) but when the food is below par, I'm afraid that these gestures simply feel like gimmicks.
You've probably guessed by now that the dessert course didn't save this particular dining experience. My American cheesecake was awful and I don't use such a term lightly. The texture of the plain cheese filling was like no other that I have ever tasted. It was so dense and cloying that it was actually difficult to swallow without taking a sip of water to wash it down. The biscuit base, meanwhile, was soggy, and the raspberry coulis sparse. We each had a mouthful or two, before pushing the large portion aside. It was later cleared away without question.
My friend's wild berries came with a pleasant, light lime foam and a cinnamon-flavoured syrup that was too thin - the sugar syrup needed to have been boiled for a good few minutes longer to achieve a more viscous consistency.
Sadly, it was a fitting end to our evening, which from the service to the food, had a lacklustre feel to it.
A meal for two at West 14th, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai costs Dh600, not including service. For reservations call 04 4477601. All reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito.