Dining on Lakewood's North Coast: a Restaurant without Piers

I must admit that when I first heard of the massive redecoration of Pier W, I was skeptical. I was a long-term fan of the wood-paneled dining room because it reminded me of the captain’s quarters of a clipper ship. Indeed, when viewed from the lake, Pier W looks as if someone ran a frigate straight into the cliff. The restaurant’s new modern decor changes the setting from that of a tall ship to that of a cruise ship. No longer do you imagine yourself as Captain Peter Blood aboard the Barracuda, but, more likely, Captain Stubing making the rounds on “The Love Boat.” It is, without question, modern, but, even with my initial reservations, it is a re-designed space which adds to the experience and, frankly, works.

Sitting by the window during a recent Saturday snowstorm was entrancing as the heavy snow fell into the black void outside, but the question on our table’s mind was whether or not the cuisine and service could measure up to the incomparable view. Make no mistake about it - Pier W will make a significant dent in your wallet. Appetizers range from $4.50 for the mesclun greens salad to $12.50 for the seared crab cakes. Entrees range from $23.00 for a seared airline breast of chicken (which means with wing attached) to $46.00 for Surf and Turf. Even the lower-priced vegetarian entrees might still seem pricey (in the high teens), but, as I have frequently stated, I would much rather pay more money for an excellent meal than less for a mediocre one.

As may be expected in a restaurant with this view and these prices, the service was impeccable. Our server was familiar with the menu and made some appreciated recommendations, offered descriptions of the preparations, and possessed knowledge of the daily availability of fresh fish and oysters.

Our meal began with a Peekytoe Crab Louis which was extraordinarily fresh. The unique sweetness of the Peekytoe Crab was accented with avocado and a slightly spicy scallion oil.

The Grouper tacos were an interesting take on a familiar dish with three square mini tacos sitting upright on a dollop of fresh guacamole and filled with very fresh seared grouper in a wonton shell and dressed with fresh salsa and cilantro.

The Calamari Frite was done to a tee, tender with just the right amount of chew in a crispy dusting of seasoned flour. The accompanying Tamarind Dip was a welcome departure from the expected marinara. The a la carte salads, if not unique, were certainly very good, especially with touches such as the homemade balsamic vinaigrette and artisan cheese crostini.

There can be a huge difference between fresh, unfrozen dry-pack scallops and deep-sea scallops which are frozen in their own juices and later defrosted. The scallops served by Pier W were perhaps some of the finest diver scallops which I have ever had the opportunity to enjoy - perfectly cooked with a sweet sea-saltiness and tender texture. I had opted for my server’s recommendation of Diver Scallops Piccata ($30.00), a variation of the classic veal dish with capers, parsley, and a white wine sauce with a hint of garlic. The braised spinach accompanying the scallops, while normally not something I would order, was a wonderful counterpoint to the sweet saltiness of the scallops. However, we could have done without the fried carrot shreds which added more of an irritating texture than any additional flavor.

As much as I am a fan of scallops, especially ones that are properly prepared, the real treat of the evening was the Veal Paillard ($29.00). The veal medallions were tender, juicy, and full of flavor and were perfectly complemented by a magnificent white wine reduction sauce. It was one of those sauces that makes the diner ask for extra bread so as to not leave a drop on the dish. The accompanying vegetables (asparagus, haricot verts, and fingerling potatoes) were complimentary to the wonderful flavors of the veal.

Pier W offers some “unadorned” seafood preparations as well for those who prefer a sauce-free experience. They also still feature their signature Bouillabaisse ($27.00) and a variety of fresh seafood specials which change daily. While the location and view dictate a seafood specialty restaurant, those who prefer red meat will not be disappointed in the buttery, tender Filet Mignon ($39.00).

The dining experience at Pier W extends beyond the salads, appetizers, and entrees. For those who are unable to decide on one of Pier W’s excellent desserts, the restaurant offers the opportunity to enjoy any combination of three. Furthermore, the restaurant has an extensive and varied wine list. Their signature brunch is served on Sundays between 9:30 and 2:30.

Clearly, the pricing at Pier W makes it a special occasion dining experience. But, the magnificent view, the impeccable service, and the presentation and execution of the dishes are more than adequate justifications of the cost.

Pier W (216-228-2250) is located at 12700 Lake Avenue. The lunch hours are 11:30 to 2:30 Mon. - Fri., and dinner is from 5:00 to 10:00 Mon. - Thurs., 5:00 - 11:00 Fri. and Sat., and 4:30 - 9:00 Sun.
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Volume 3, Issue 4, Posted 10:10 PM, 02.09.07