Continuing the rigorous precedence established by sibling restaurants On the Curve Hot Stove & Wine Bar as well as Ten Restaurant & Wine Bar, West 50 Pour House & Grille operates on a similar principal; the perfect pairing of drink to meal is synonymous to a fine dining experience. However, at West 50, it is the over 105 varieties of draught beer available to pair with any of chef Olaf Mertens homey culinary creations that makes the newest member of the HIP family of restaurants a real winner.
There isn't a single one of us who can deny it, all over the GTA, trendy beer themed restaurants are popping up all over the place. However, as a beer lover, I have never sat in a restaurant where over 105 beer tap handles were staring me down, nor have I ever stood in a custom built refrigerated room with over 105 kegs of beer feeding the said taps. Yes, it's moments like these when I can say with all honesty, "I love my job!"
Regardless of the hype surrounding the burgeoning North American acceptance of beer culture, West 50 doesn't hide behind senseless jargon, if it isn't already clear from the menu, the management, staff and servers all know beer and are ready to share this knowledge with their clients. General Manager Jason Joynt, a congenial source of beer trivia, history and knowledge, explains that "West 50 ensures that all three points of contact (for the beer) is refrigerated to always ensure the optimal pour." Joynt and the team at West 50, believe in the superiority of draught vs. bottled beers and when possible, they purchase smaller 30L kegs to ensure fast turnaround of the freshest product possible.
For a gal like me, being faced with the largest draught beer selection in Canada makes me do odd things. I count how many are Ontario micro-brews vs. Canadian commercial (2:1), I see how many international commercial brands exist on the list (approx. 30) and if they are priced accordingly (individual 5oz tasters, $1.35 - $2.39; pints, $5.35-$7.18; pitchers $15.79 -$21.31). However, the most annoying thing that I do, is that I wear a hat of "beer aficionado" and take on the task of choosing beers that would convert my beer indifferent dining partner to the plentiful land of hops and barley - whether they want it or not! With Jason at my side, we prescribe selections to the 6-Pack taster wheel. Erdinger Weißbier, a commercial German wheat beer with hints of banana, Fruli Strawberry Wheat Lager, a Belgian witbieren with crushed strawberries added to the fermenting process and finally, the reviewer's choice, the seasonally available Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale, something I've wanted to sample for a long time.
The 6-Pack taster is a perfect way to sample a cross selection of premium to specialty brews for $12.70. Conveniently enough, the 6-Pack is the ideal accompaniment to any assortment of appetizers at West 50. The mild and creamy, Spinach, Artichoke & Beer Cheese Dip ($9.98) brings out the sweet notes of the Erdinger while the crisp and tall Parmesan Dusted Onion Ring Tower ($9.23) brought out the spicier notes of the Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale. However, the appetizers alone lost their zing so I strongly recommend consulting your server for beer selections when opting for appetizers.
The mains arrived without hesitation. "The 16oz Happy Pork Chop" ($24.91), is a specialty cut of meat prepared only for West 50. While the size is intimidating, the portion is ideally cooked under layers of melted brie and resting on a bed of smashed white potatoes. My guest enjoyed Jason's favorite entrée, the Mighty Individual Meatloaf ($16.93), a bacon wrapped purse shaped meatloaf that is an incredible comfort food to eat on a chill winter's day. A mix of veal, beef and sweet Italian sausage was hard to pull away from, but we cannot forget that dessert is on the horizon!
Dessert at West 50, like the beer, appetizer and main menu, it is well worth the effort. The Dessert Sampler Platter ($15.50) highlights West 50's option to share, with a decadent ring of gelato, banana crÃƒÂ¨me brulee, home baked cookies, espresso cheesecake, mini West 50 tail end deep fried pizza dough, s'mores brownie and an assortment of fresh berries. At that moment, my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I indulged in each dessert, personally enjoying the warm and fudgy s'mores brownie, the cinnamon sugar dusted tail end and the miniature crÃƒÂ¨me brulee. Paired with a Champagne Deception, a cocktail of Strongbow Cider, Bacardi Razz and Chambord, it was a terrific cap to an evening of dining and imbibing.
West 50 has accomplished what I thought pretension would have prevented, beer tasters, an innovative cocktail menu presents refreshingly effervescent beer infused cocktails and a well organized menu that takes beer pairing and food sharing into consideration. While the restaurant does have private rooms that can cater for corporate meetings and private celebrations, there is no discomfort in coming in to enjoy a pint while watching the game. The restaurant is all about setting an atmosphere conducive to good drink, good food and good times with friends.
Take that as a recommendation, but make sure you always pair with beer.