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Balboa Restaurant

8462 Sunset Blvd (in the Grafton On Sunset hotel)
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Phone: 323.650.8383
Date of Visit: 05 October 2003


I will start this review with a summary: Balboa is a great dining experience. The service is superb and the food is wonderful. And their Sunday night Wine Lovers special is not to be missed. Go there. It is a fun place.

I will admit that I was first drawn to Balboa specifically because of their Sunday wine special. The wine on their wine list is half-price on Sunday. Now in my humble opinion, ANY restaurant that has their wine list at half price deserves at least one visit! So it was on the occasion of the ChiefMeatInspector's birthday (I won't tell you how old he is because rocks generally don't live that long!) that we decided to venture to West Hollywood and sample Balboa's offerings. Sunday, 5 October was the date. Because of the wine pricing special, we elected to reserve two rooms at the Grafton On Sunset Hotel. As it turned out, this was a very wise decision because four bottles of wine and a few night caps at the bar later, any attempt to drive 30 miles south that night would have been met with grave concern and downright hostility by local law enforcement agencies.

To start the evening and while enjoying the views around the Grafton on Sunset hotel, the ChiefMeatInspector and I relaxed with a bottle of 1999 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon (Bottle Of Wine #1). Not a very exciting bottle of wine, but just something I brought from home for a pre-dinner libation.

This is not your father's steakhouse it is a modern-designed, 60-seat experience. Tasteful original art, hardwood floors (watch the step-up, please!), and a young, eclectic staff make Balboa a pleasant escape from the norm. Upon entering Balboa we were warmly greeted and shown to a nice corner table. The waitress, Tara, quickly appeared to entertain our questions....and we had many. While we were in the "planning" mode, we ordered an appetizer of Maryland Blue Crab Cakes ($14) and a half-bottle of 2000 Murphy-Goode Sauvignon Blanc ($18...and Bottle Of Wine #2). [Wine prices shown here are BEFORE the 50-percent discount.] The crab cakes were not made using large lump crab meat, but in a more minced, compacted style. They were nice but I would not order them again. And what can you say about Murphy-Goode Sauvignon Blanc? It was fruity with a hint of oak and did not overpower the crab.

Following more discussions with Tara, we ordered a bottle of 1999 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon ($88...and Bottle Of Wine #3). I have always been a fan of Jordan cabs and this one was not disappointing. It was ready to drink and had a nice balance of wood, berries, and acid. A very nice wine. While starting the wine, a white-coated waiter wheeled over a cart to the side of our table began preparing our Caesar Salad ($10). Watching table-side preparation of a true Caesar Salad is a wonderful experience. It is truly a please to watch the masterful addition of each individual ingredient, followed by gentle mixing, plating, and ultimate service. It was a superb creation. As we enjoyed the salad and the Jordan, we placed our dinner order with the now legendary and knowledgeable Tara.

Departing from my usual favorites of either a New York or Porterhouse, I ordered the Bone-In "Kansas City" Filet ($34) and the ChiefMeatInspector ordered the Porterhouse ($39). We were discussing ("arguing" would be a better term for it) over what sides to order when Tara stepped in to save the night (and to head-off a brewing fist fight). She recommended that we order a Vege Platter, which includes four different sides, served on one platter. Hailing that as a near-brilliant recommendation, we did so. The Vege Platter ($18) included twice-baked potato, roasted garlic mashed potato, garlic string beans, and sauteed mushrooms. (I know: two potatoes. I just was not in a mood for more discussion at that point!) It is important to mention the steaks at this point. While they were good, they were certainly not the best I have ever had. And the prices of each ($34 and $39) clearly place them at the higher end of the dead cow monetary spectrum. Please keep this in mind when you visit Balboa.

The meal was served quickly and with precision. Everything was perfectly prepared (see the note above regarding the steaks) and tasted great. My only negative issue was that I felt the filet was not as tender as other filets that I have had. I mentioned this and was immediately told that they would be happy to prepare for me another filet or another entree. Since I had already eaten half of it (I did not say it was bad, OK?!), I declined their generous offer. Shortly after getting up close and personal with the dead cow, we ordered a bottle of 1997 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon ($158...and Bottle Of Wine #4). The wine was Tara's suggestion and a good one it was. Rich fruit and oak, the wine was a wonderful addition to the steak dinner.

Gorged and "wined" beyond recognition, it was time for coffee ($3) and desert. The desert was a decadent, warm-center chocolate creation ($9) that went exceptionally well with the remaining Freemark Abbey Cabernet. After relaxing a bit and trying to determine which was more important: making a house payment or paying for dinner, I opted to pay for dinner. (Thanks Balboa, for your Sunday Night Wine Lover's Special!)

At that point, most normal people would have retired to the safety and comfort of their hotel room. Not the ChiefCowEater and ChiefMeatInspector. We asked the matre 'd if there was a cocktail lounge in the hotel. He escorted us across the hotel lobby to the Grafton lounge. Hopping up on the bar stool, we perused the offerings. (Ok, the hopping thing did not happen, but that sounds much better than saying staggered up on the bar stool!) I ordered Maker's Mark and the ChiefMeatInspector ordered B&B. After a few of those, we took a clue from the bartender, who was closing up the bar, and departed for our respective rooms. When I last saw him, the ChiefMeatInspector was attempting to negotiate the stairs leading to his first floor room. I am not sure how I managed it without assistance, but I make it back, successfully, to my room. (Damn Balboa's Sunday Night Wine Lover's special!)

Bottom line: The Balboa is a fun place with lots of good food and wine. If you are in the Los Angeles/West Hollywood area, make reservations and enjoy food, great service, and fine company.


  Overall Experience



  Menu Selections

  Preparation/Food Quality

  Wine List/Availability

  Wine Pricing (FOR SUNDAY NIGHT!!)

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