Upper West

Upper class: The celebrated veggie burger

Upper class: The celebrated veggie burger

Sweet and smoky: Roasted corn soup with black-bean falafel and sumac oil

Sweet and smoky: Roasted corn soup with black bean falafel and sumac oil

Berry good: Burrata with blackberries, tomato, and chopped green apple

Silky and buttery: Burrata with blackberries, tomato, and chopped green apple

The best donuts ever

Best on the planet? Chocolate cake doughnuts

Spurred by an L.A. Times reader’s description of the veggie burger as “the best…on the planet,” we hastened tonight to Upper West in Santa Monica (3321 Pico, near the 10). Although the claim turned out to be ludicrously hyperbolic, the burger was still pretty darned good, at least as a package. The patty by itself was rather bland and mushy, with a subtle smokiness as the only real flavor marker. However, every bite that included sliced avocado and pineapple relish was quite tasty, and the soft brioche bun enhanced the overall experience, as did the crisp, thin fries and the small, piquant pile of pickled carrots, onions, and peppers served on the side. We were more impressed by our appetizers, a slightly sweet, slightly smoky roasted corn soup with black bean falafel, and vegetable carpaccio, which brilliantly juxtaposed sweet beet slices with smoky “beluga” lentils, sweet cherry tomatoes, and capers (we could have done without the goat cheese). Surprisingly, the highlight of the meal was the set of five chocolate cake doughnuts, our judicious choice for dessert. These fried dough balls, reminiscent of Dunkin Donut Munchkins but taken to a whole other level, are filled with a luscious chocolate ganache and served in a paper bag full of cinnamon and sugar, together with a mind-blowing bittersweet chocolate-rum dipping sauce and, charmingly, a small glass of cold, sweet milk. If someone had claimed that these were the best on the planet, we might actually have believed it.

Update: On a second visit (August 2), we thought the veggie burger had gotten better; the patty itself now seemed to have a subtle curry taste, and it was topped with roasted red peppers as well as avocado, pineapple relish, and tomato aioli. Sadly, the vegetable carpaccio was unavailable tonight, but we were just as impressed by our replacement appetizer, a silky, buttery chunk of burrata atop a bed of panzanella, a bread crumb salad, made in this case with blackberries, chopped green apple, blistered tomatoes, fresh basil, and a light, tangy mustard-dill vinaigrette. We loved the roasted corn soup as much as before, and the doughnuts continue to thrill and astonish.


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