Kachina Southwestern Grill at the Westminster Westin
December 7, 2012
My husband and I recently made a trip to Westminster to try Kachina, the new restaurant in the Westin. I had been contacted with an offer to try it to do a review, and we were graciously treated to a full meal. Hotel restaurants are often somewhat tricky, as they have to appeal to a wide range of tastes to cater to travelers as well as locals. But you can find some jewels in hotels, as well – we ate at a great Yemeni restaurant in a hotel in San Francisco a few years ago. In fact, the Westminster Westin previously housed O, which featured Ian Kleinman, a local chef who specializes in molecular gastronomy (we’ve eaten his food twice, and loved it).
So I was quite excited to try Kachina, billed as a Southwestern restaurant (with some Native American inspiration as well). The restaurant space is well-appointed with lots of care to detail. I would describe it as a style that is vibrant, modern, and Southwestern. As we perused the menu, I was very happy to see that they source produce and meat from local farms (there were twelve mentioned on the menu). I always appreciate restaurants who support local farms and local food. The menu itself is a little overwhelming – there were 3 soups, 4 salads, 11 appetizer/small plates, 7 tacos, 20 entrées, and 8 in-house butcher shop specials. Overall it’s not a bad thing to have such a huge selection, but it left us with a slight impression of a lack of focus.
We started off with a gorgeous scallop ceviche with lime, spring onion, candied Fresno chile, heirloom tomato, radish, smoked salt, and olive oil. The scallops had just a hint of fishiness, but overall, I found the dish to have a nice, bright taste, and the candied chiles were a wonderful addition. This was also the only picture I got that truly did justice to how the food looked in person.
Next was the salad course, which was probably my favorite of the night. The first salad we had was the grilled romaine with a soft poached egg, shaved manchego, smoked trout, and citrus Caesar dressing. I absolutely loved this salad. The romaine could have been grilled a touch more, but I loved how the yolk of the soft poached egg ran to coat the salad when it was broken. The manchego cheese and smoked trout added to the complexity and richness of the salad, but the romaine base and the citrus caesar kept it from feeling too heavy. I was somewhat sad to trade with my husband at the halfway point, I was enjoying it so much.
Our other salad was the bright salad, featuring seasonal greens, mint, cilantro, sage, jicama, grapefruit, and red chile, with smoked tomato vinaigrette. This salad was quite good, too. The grapefruit provided just the right amount of bright, citrusy acid, avoiding the harsh contrast you sometimes find with salads that include grapefruit. All of the vegetables were nice and fresh, and the salad was very attractive.
Our first entrée was pan-seared Colorado striped bass with red chile popcorn crust, poblano pesto, heirloom tomato salad, and braised fennel. The fish itself was very good, and the pesto and heirloom tomato salad went nicely with it. The red chile wasn’t very spicy, however, and the braised fennel didn’t add much of a strong taste to the dish.
Our next dish, the slow-cooked porchetta, was from the section of the menu titled ‘The Chef and The Butcher’, which was explained as featuring meat purchased locally and butchered in-house. The dish also featured bourbon raisin-apple slaw, and mashed potatoes. The bourbon raisin-apple slaw was nice and fresh, but I couldn’t easily discern the bourbon component. While the porchetta was perfectly acceptable, I didn’t feel that it was really allowed to shine, as the potatoes kind of outweighed it on the dish. (My husband didn’t think the potatoes were particularly exceptional, but I found them to be a pretty solid, creamy version).
We also ordered a side of calabacitas, which were great (read ‘addictive’). I loved the touch (or maybe more than touch) of cheese in it – YUM! The picture I took – not so good, so we’ll just bypass that part.
We finished the meal with the chocolate chile beignets with cajeta dipping sauce (sweetened caramelized milk thickened into a syrup). We both thought that the beignets were good, but perhaps didn’t need the cinnamon sugar, chocolate filling AND the cajeta sauce. They also weren’t very spicy. What we really wondered at this point was, why the French term? Why not buñuelos, donas, or churros?
The waitstaff was very friendly, but at times our waiter seemed to be using buzz words without really thinking about what he was saying. (He was telling us about one of the chef and the butcher items, saying grass fed beef is really healthy, and then announcing in the next breath how it was topped with foie gras. That just struck us as kind of funny.) We also felt like the service was a bit too attentive, checking in with us extensively during the meal.
If you’re in the area, I think Kachina is worth checking out. I’d like to try the tacos, and I’d definitely go back for the grilled romaine salad. There’s a lot of potential there, and with some tweaking, I think it could be a solid choice.
1/12/13 Update: We returned with some friends for a second meal, and I’ve got a few more dishes to recommend. (First, I can confirm that the grilled romaine is indeed the salad you want to have – it was just as good the second time). The traditional pork posole rojo was outstanding, the Gaucho taco (lamb) was great, and the chocolate cola cake and the cookies and cream were terrific desserts. (I only tried a churro from the latter dessert, but it was so good I’m recommending it.)