Fun, casual, California fare – that’s how Executive Chef Dakota Weiss describes her menu at The Backyard, the outdoor poolside dining spot at the W Los Angeles – Westwood.
Earlier this year, the hotel relaunched its Sunday pool party as “WET Weekends” with remodeled cabanas and a live DJ from 11:30 am to 6 pm.
Weiss, who joined the hotel in 2011, said she picked her favorite lunch and dinner menu items as well as some breakfast dishes to create a brunch menu to coincide with the weekly Sunday pool party.
“I love brunch,” Weiss said. “It’s one of my favorite meals ever. Our of the most popular dishes is Gaelen’s Waffle Sandwich. It’s Belgian waffles and we smother it with wholegrain mustard, black forest ham, gruyere cheese, and caramelized onions then we make it into a sandwich. We put three fried eggs and maple syrup on top. It’s really good hangover food. We also have a fun breakfast pizza with eggs, sausage, gruyere cheese, and sour cream.”
Weiss said Los Angeles has plenty of popular pool parties, but added its Sunday party was unique.
“Every week it draws a mature but fun crowd,” she said. “The cool thing I like about our pool party is that the crowd does change each week. The majority of them do make brunch reservations before the pool party and people eat in their cabana or at The Backyard. It’s a fun pool party, but it’s not super crazy or out of control. People are out there dancing and having a good time.”
Weiss said her inspiration for The Backyard’s menu was to keep dishes playful and fresh.
“I change it six to eight times a year,” she said. “I really tried to create lots of sharable items. We change the pizzas out regularly and I go to the Santa Monica farmers market. Since it’s our all day restaurant it’s got things that are lunch appropriate then also dinner/entrée appropriate.”
Weiss said the menu includes a lot of healthy items such as the Grilled Chicken Paillard.
“It’s a very simple lightly pounded chicken breast with mustard and rosemary rub on it before we grill it,” she said. “Since it’s a simple dish, we made a strong vinaigrette which is a house smoked paprika that we turn into a vibrant vinaigrette. It’s served with a salad of butter lettuce, avocados, tomatoes, and some bacon to add a smoky element to the dish.”
Another popular dish is the Truffle Fried Chicken-Mac N Cheese.
Weiss said the sauce for this dish featured house made ricotta.
“It’s this really creamy, lemony white cheese and we did a fun tubetti pasta which is like macaroni but a little shorter and a little fatter,” she said. “Inside we have ham and onions. The pasta alone stands by itself then we wanted to take it further as a comfort food, so we added a chicken breast pounded out pretty thin then soaked in truffle buttermilk for 24 hours. To finish the dish, we bread it, deep fry it, and then add more truffle pecorino cheese on top of that.”
One of Weiss’s signatures dishes – that’s on the opposite spectrum of healthy – is the Backyard Cheeseburger.
“It’s the best burger ever,” She said. “We use really fun really soft pretzel buns for it and it has my three favorite ingredients on it: fiscalini aged white cheddar, fried pickles, and an aioli sauce. We take pickles and slice them thin, dip them in tempura batter, and then fry them. Then we finish the burger with a malt vinegar aioli, which is super vinegary and garlicky that goes with the fiscalini aged white cheddar. It’s just absolutely delicious. I think everybody needs a kick ass burger. I played around with a lot of burgers before we developed this one. It’s been on the menu just under a year.”
Finally, for anyone who sits at the bar at The Backyard, there are free samples of Weiss’ own line of popcorn. She said the flavors are a mix of savory, sweet, and salty with flavors such as chicken and waffles, honey on cashews, and toffee and bacon pistachio.
WET Weekends is open to the public free-of-charge and there are private cabanas available for rent. The Backyard is open for brunch Saturdays and Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm and weekdays from 11 am to sundown.
The W Los Angeles – Westwood is located at 930 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles.
For more information, call 310.443.8218 or visit www.thebackyardw.com.