Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review: Westview Wine Cellar & Bistro (♥♥♥)


1803 Ramada Blvd.
Suite B101 (lower level)
Collinsville, IL 62234


Well, here it first restaurant review and I'm rating it 3 ♥♥♥ out of a possible 5. It's a bit lengthy, but I felt there was a lot to share. :)

Located on the bluffs of Collinsville, IL. My generation probably knows the location best as where Ex-Caliber night club used to be, possibly the old water slide or more recently Sky Bar. However, the generation before me most likely remembers it as the old Sonny & Chars. The bistro is located on the lower level of a newly renovated building which also includes office space and condominiums (entire building pictured above). It's a little tricky to find as you walk into the building you travel down a hallway, past some of the office space and then take an elevator or stairs down to the lower level. Once in the bistro you see the bar area, a nice fireplace area, tables and chairs, and a few was nice. The walls are mostly glass which is nice because of the amazing view. It was cozy and quaint with a great view pretty much everything you expect from a little wine bistro. It is locally owned and operated by a man, Rich, and his wife which I never did catch her name. Rich, is actually a friend of mine's brother in-law and through her along with a few other friends who had already been there who had all wonderful things to say about the place, I was excited to be there.

Although it was a gloomy Wednesday night it was no longer raining so we were able to enjoy their outdoor seating area which is probably one of the best views in Collinsville overlooking the nearby St. Louis skyline. With the interstate being right below us it was a tad bit noisy, but nothing a little girl talk and a few bottles of wine couldn't drown out. Later in the evening, just about the time the nasty midwest mosquitoes came out to feast, Rich came out and offered us bug spray! awesome is that? How many restaurants offer bug spray for their outdoor seating patrons...and exactly at the right time!

THE SPECIALS: So here it goes.......the "specials menu" offered 1/2 price appetizers on Wednesdays with a purchase of any bottle of wine. You could also purchase one bottle of wine and a pizza for only $19.95. It did state that the wines were limited, but it didn't tell you how or give you a list to choose from. The wines that are available for tasting (more on that in a minute) you could purchase by the glass for $6 or there were other wines you could get a half carafe' (approx. 3 glasses) for $9. However, no such list of those wines. Figuring out what bottles went with which specials, which wines were available buy the glass, and which you could order in the half carafe' was the most rediculous fiasco I've ever experience at any restaurant EVER!

THE WINE: Good news: They have almost 60 different wines on their wine list. Bad news: They have almost 60 different wines on their wine list. The list was strictly sorted by REDS and WHITES other order that I could tell such as by price, from dry to sweet, by type of grape...nothing...just a big ole' list of wines. A big pet peeve of mine in any restaurant/bar is that the owners, bartenders, servers, etc. should ALWAYS know their menu and winelists. This lady was fumbling around trying to figure things out when we would ask simple questions like "what red semi-drys do you have?" She should be able to ramble that right off OR at the very least point us to a list with some sort of direction. She owns the place, she is her own wine buyer, and seemed to have a hard time knowing what was on her own winelist. The above fiaso started as soon as we walked in with this not so pleasant wine tasting. It turns out there was actually a typed out list of only about 8-10 wines available for tasting, and we were finally directed to those and all decided what we liked. I totally understand not being able to allow 60 bottles of various wines being open for tasting, but also please do not suggest a $30 bottle of wine that I "may like" without allowing me to taste it first. That is borderline rude. Overall, the whole tasting experience here was just not enjoyable. It wasn't that the lady was un-friendly, she just lacked the kindness I was expecting, and that speaks volumes. It also was all entirely too confusing. They need to either scale it down, or at least create some sort of organization of it all to simplify things a bit. Now that I've been there though, IF....I say IF... I ever go back it would most likely be a bit easier to navigate and probably not cause such a headache.

THE FOOD: Their menu offers a sampler platter or individual appetizers consisiting of garlic cheese bread, toasted ravioli, and mozzarella sticks. There is also a parmesan fondue and cheese/sausage trays available. There was one salad a "house salad" and about 6 different sandwich selections. The also have my favorite St. Louis style pizzas, TJ's Pizzas, (yep I like these better than Imos) along with chocolate fondue and cheesecake as dessert options. Again....the fiasco began with the wine and it continues right into the food. I choose the bottle of wine and pizza option. I was sternly told that my bottle of wine was considered an upgrade because it was $18 and the special is only with $15 bottles. Again, no list of these wines, but I'll pay $19.95 + my difference of $ biggie! I could care less about the $3, but she could have been a bit nicer about it. I also ordered their house salad with ranch. My friends each got their own bottles, as well as a house salad and one friend took advantage of a 1/2 price appetizers deal and got some mozzarella sticks.

Okay....we get out to the seating area. Rich, super nice guy, wipes the rain off our seats for us and gets us all settle in. We each pour ourselves a glass of wine. At this point...boy did we need that wine! A few moments later, here comes our salads. Ughh...bagged Dole iceberg blend with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, two tomato slices and I saw the dude in the back squeeze the Hidden Valley Ranch into the little cups that sat along the side. First, let me tell you that I HATE most bagged salads. I do like the mixed green blends, but how terribly hard is it to cut up a 69 cent head of iceberg lettuce, really? So, I picked out the few pieces of wilted brown lettuce that are always in those bags and tried to forget that the Hidden Valley Ranch wasn't exactly covering up the plastic lettuce taste of my $2.95 house salad.

Then comes our four mozzarella sticks. Not much to write home about here. They were frozen mozzarella sticks thrown into the fryer for a few minutes and served with bottled marinara sauce. my beloved TJ's Pizza arrives. We ordered the Deluxe and it smells and looks wonderful. If you have never had Provel cheese you MUST come to St. Louis and get some!!! Honestly, in my opinion the best food item ever to originate from St. Louis. Well, maybe a close second to the pork steak. :) Anyway, it's really hot so we let it sit to cool for a minute and when I go to get my first square the outside pieces are crispy, but the inside crust is soggy mess! way! How did they screw this up? Doesn't TJ's Pizzas provides the restaurants/bars with this little turbo pizza cooker thingy that cooks them to perfection? It still tasted really good, but just a little disappointing because St. Louis thin style pizza crust is supposed to be cracker crunchy and here I was eating my pizza with a spoon because I had sent my fork back with my salad bowl thinking I would not be needing it. Oh well...yet again....I ate it....just like I always do!
To end the food on a good note.....we all three shared the chocolate fondue. It was served with a large amount of angel food cubes, and he said they will soon be adding strawberries as well. The chocolate was smooth and velvety. I think it was bitter-sweet chocolate. Not too sweet and not too bitter. A nice way to finish up the evening.

THE SERVICE: Rich checked on us often, but not too often. Like I mentioned earlier he provided us with bug spray at the perfect time and with the exception of the lack of kindness from the lady - the service was very good. Later in the evening Rich stopped to chat with a us a bit.....or actually the wine had kicked in and we stopped him to chat. With his permission, we did provide a little bit of negative feedback to him such as their need to simplify things a bit. He agreed with us and I think he genuinely appreciated us sharing our concerns/suggestions. I really like it when someone takes constructive criticism well. It tells a lot about their character.

OVERALL: This is a fairly new business trying to see what works and what doesn't. The atmosphere is exactly what so many of us enjoy so once the kinks get worked out I think this place should do just fine. If they can't get them worked out, there are several other places popping up just like theirs. The competition is fierce in the restaurant business. You either make it or you don't. I truly wish them the best of luck.


JessicaBlackburn said...

Well said, we've wanted to get up there to check it out - but I've heard very similar stories about them, so it kind of turned me off a bit. You know me though - will probably still check it out sometime ;)

annalen said...

Loved the review!! I have been there twice, and I think it is a great place to go for some fondue and some wine and enjoy the scenery. But not a good place to eat!

Jess said...

We were thinking about going there for a girl's night soon, but I think we'll wait another month or two so by then they will have ironed out the cracks. Good review though! It was descriptive and super helpful!

Anele said...

Yikes, sounds like it had it's share of issues but good that the guy wanted to know where improvements could be made. The wine wench sounds like she needs to drop the chip on her shoulder! Maybe try again in 4-6 months, provided it's still there. Word of mouth is everything.