Reata Grill Brings Fort Worth Food to Woodland Hills

Westfield Shopping Centre, 6100 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91367

When the Reata restaurant closed its doors in Beverly Hills last year after a valiant attempt to bring its extremely popular Tex/Mex style food to California, many critics and cynics thought that was it for the larger than life Texas mini-empire. However Al Micallef, the ever optimistic and big thinking owner is not a quitter, so has come up with a new concept, John Wayne meets Jackie Chan style cuisine in a daring attempt to break open the Southern California market. Reata is named after the ranch in the 1950s movie "Giant" starring James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.

Al hired Asian chef Ped Phommavong who was already getting lots of ink in Texas food publications for his cooking at his own Lemongrass restaurant. Although Ped was originally reluctant to try this new kind of venture and needed a lot of convincing, he eventually succumbed to the Cattle Baron's wishes and took on the daunting task of creating a new menu from scratch.

At a preliminary tasting prior to the restaurant's opening, NiteDine tried a good sampling of the dishes on offer and can respond back with a mixed report card. The Beef Tenderloin Tamales ($8.95) were terrific, as was the Charbroiled Rib Eye Steak. The Cowboy Sushi at $9.95 a pop, looked great but was snapped up by the other invited guests at my table like crocodiles at a zoo lunch. That particular work of art consists of grilled rib eye steak, guacamole and pico de galle, wrapped in tequila-marinated rice and seaweed with a spicy sesame barbecue sauce and garnished with pickle ginger. The ceviche cocktail served in a champagne glass and accompanied by crispy tortilla strips seemed a bit flat

Not quite as good were the salads, although the Reata Wedge Salad with pico vinaigrette and crumbled bleu cheese ($5.95) was clearly the best, and is one of the Reata signature dishes imported directly from Fort Worth. I was also hoping for better things from the Wasabi crusted Ahi Tuna with roasted sweet peppers ($20.95) but found the presentation dull and again, the taste very flat.

Dessert Tacos with caramelized bananas and a chocolate gravy are also a Fort Worth specialty, and different enough to warrant trying again on my next visit.

The chef discovered that cowboy cuisine and Asian cuisine have a few things in common when it comes to spices. He found that he could take flavors and spices with western roots like chilies, tequila, jalapeno, pico de galle and combine them with Asian ingredients like ginger, wasabi, sesame, peanut sauce, fresh fish and other elements. He has a spacious kitchen to do his magic, and no doubt, a lot of tweaking and improvements will take place on the menu in the months ahead.

The bar scene in the narrow 200 seater restaurant is lively, the atmosphere is kind of hip, and the waiting staff are all smartly dressed in black outfits. Reata Grill will hopefully make it in a town that constantly craves the newest and trendiest scene, but if you are a real foodie then probably best sticking to the handful of signature dishes that can be found marked on the menu.

Mike Hepworth, October 2003

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Tel: 818 347 2090
Hours
  Sunday - Thursday 11:00 to 22:00, Bar til 23:00
  Friday - Saturday 11:00 to 23:00, Bar til Midnight
Reata online
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