At 419 West, dark wood, arches, comfortable seating and neo-Jeffersonian architecture create a charming place to dine.
Love was in the air. Love and the smell of woodsmoke – always a welcome harbinger of some good things to eat – cutting through the cold air like a promise of spring.
It was St. Valentine’s Day in the parking lot of 419 West, where we’d been lucky enough to get a table despite the occasion. Walking through the remnants of this winter’s abundant snows, we relished the thought of sitting somewhere comfortable and getting warmed up, inside and out.
419 West has a lot of charm. A long and open bar with plenty of dark wood, comfortable seats and graceful arches; neo-Jeffersonian architecture complete with a cupola in the dining room, and luscious earth tones that added warmth to the design.
A glass-and-wood-enclosed walk-in wine cooler serves as a literal and metaphoric link between the dining room and the bar, pointing out not only how wonderfully a well-matched vintage can augment a well-prepared meal, but also how much emphasis 419 West places on having a strong variety of wines on hand. More than just a marketing tool, this is a bold statement on wine’s importance, and one that was not lost on us.
A long window into an open kitchen similarly demonstrates that the focus is on the food. This is a point that was demonstrated to the hilt when our first course arrived.
The crab & sweet corn chowder paired the sweet flavors of the crab and corn with spicy red peppers, creating a savory contrast of flavors. It could have been a tad warmer, but one would imagine that on such a busy restaurant night, a few details are going to fall through the cracks.
The shrimp & asparagus quesadilla was light and crispy in flavor, and came served with a tangy cilantro sour cream and pico de gallo for dipping. The kitchen was quite generous with the shrimp, perhaps fearing the possibility of a withering stink-eye from the diners on the other side of the window. Less thrilling was the spring roll appetizer; the vegetables were crisp and tasty, but the shells were somewhat limp, making the experience a tad forgettable.
But it was a night for love, and all was forgiven when the appetizers came marching down the aisle. We brushed right past a selection of sandwiches, leering at us like wallflowers, and selected more exotic partners. Grilled diver scallops, sauteed shrimp and lump crab meat came with a rich and creamy crab butter, served over creamy grits. The crab chunks were vast, and the shrimp were beautiful, but the scallops were a real showstopper – a little bigger than golf balls and a lot more delicious.
Speaking of love, there’s something about a ribeye that comes with the option to add bleu cheese, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, and/or jumbo lump crabmeat that just screams “Eat me! Eat me now!” Tender and juicy, cooked exactly to order, and with enough flavor to stand up well with all of the add-ons.
Beats a box of chocolates any day of the year.