Bakersfield pleases with modern menu, comfortable setting
Bakersfield is an upscale-ish restaurant with prices to match.
Located just across from Westmont's Standard Market, Bakersfield is modern and open with oversized booths, a wine room, bustling exhibition kitchen and an expansive, flat screen-frocked bar. It also offers something that's lacking, dining-wise, amid tony car dealerships: sophistication.
330 E. Ogden Ave., Westmont
Setting: Open, airy restau-lounge
Entrees: $12 to $30
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday
The menu is a mix of American standards and familiar Asian-tinged eats. Nothing is too wacky, so it's easy to dine with a group when people have varying preferences.
We started with the tuna poke, but found it rather odd. Large hunks of raw tuna mingle with shrimp, mango and avocado, the whole thing swathed in sweet teriyaki glaze. There was a lot going on flavor-wise, but the flavors and textures didn't exactly jibe. The Asian steak and noodle salad — a commingling of filet, soft noodles, coconut, mango and Thai peanut dressing proved likewise confusing.
Maybe we'd have been better off with smoked salmon, spinach-mushroom dip or crispy Thai shrimp and house-made guacamole.
There are plenty of options for light eaters, including a farm salad with grilled chicken, goat cheese, avocado and candied hazelnuts in champagne vinaigrette. But it's hard to deny a good, old iceberg wedge topped with Danish blue cheese. Expect a house-made soup to be served each day, such as caramelized onion on Thursdays and black bean on Mondays.
Sandwiches comprise a good chunk of the menu, and we found the Maine lobster-packed knuckle sandwich with crunchy slaw and peppery arugula to be a luxuriously casual standout. Fellow handhelds include a portobello sandwich with roasted garlic dressing and cheddar and jack cheeses, a piled-high French dip, a Cajun fish sandwich and a classic cheeseburger built from house-ground meat.
Instead, we opted for prime rib, which is turned from the restaurant's wood-burning oven. This dish proved to be a clear case of letting ingredients shine. Simple and lightly smoky, the high quality meat was served alongside a gigantic, loaded baked potato. Was it groundbreaking? No. But was it really good. Yes.
Other wood-fired options include Skuna Bay salmon, bacon-wrapped tiger shrimp with honey-soy glaze, barbecue ribs and barbecue-sauced, rotisserie chicken.
There are other comfort food-driven options as well, including jumbo lump crabcakes with Creole mustard, gnocchi and meatballs with San Marzano tomato sauce and "knife and fork" fried chicken with mashed potatoes and cornbread croutons.
Portions are pretty large, making it hard to save room for dessert. When it came time, we chose the fried Oreos with Jeni's peanut-y The Buckeye State ice cream. The batter was doughy, not airy like we hoped it would be. Perhaps next time we'll go for the tres leches cake or double-nut brownie.
Bakersfield offers an ample by-the-glass and bottled wine selection, furthered by a handful of signature cocktails. The beer list is surprisingly small, given the market's offerings across the road. Still, it gets the job done.
Service is friendly and professional. It's also plentiful. When we dined, the staff outnumbered diners nearly 2:1. If weather allows, there's also a large patio with a fire pit making an ideal place for sipping and supping well into fall.
We'll admit Bakersfield has room to grow, but it has a solid foundation for doing so. And given the menu follows a formula that works, popularity is all but guaranteed.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does review restaurants it cannot recommend.
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