How far are you willing to drive for food?
The answer probably depends on your individual opinion of the definition of “far”, but we each have a particular number of miles that acts as our limit. I was struggling with that number not too long ago as I had to decide whether I should visit Aroha New Zealand Cuisine and Bar in Westlake Village. An 86-mile round trip of a drive for a single meal may not make sense to most, but if you love food as much as I do, then it’ll be rationalized. With a desire to visit more places outside of Los Angeles and to discover cuisines that aren’t so common, the drive wasn’t a difficult one to make.
Sitting in the patio of the restaurant with the lights hung across the room and a menu in hand, I forgot about how long it took to get to Aroha. The only thing running through my mind at this point was figuring out what to order. It didn’t take long, but with a little help from the waiter I found a few items to get the night going.
The first plate to ease the long drive was the Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad ($14). Finding that all ingredients of the salad came from California made me excited to taste the dish in which its components came from my own home state. The salad was served on a bed of arugula topped with candied walnuts and a drizzled with a vanilla passion fruit dressing. As I went further and further into this salad my immediate thought was that I wished there were more strawberries. With the fruit as the lead in the name it was surprising to see that there was only a single strawberry cut into two halves here. Two more strawberries or maybe three would have made this perfect especially because the sweetness from the fruit was the strongest aspect. In alignment with the strawberries, the solid crunch from the sweet walnuts was nice interruption. From there, the thick and velvet-like goat cheese was delicious, but just like the strawberries there wasn’t enough. Ultimately, the proportion of arugula to the cheese and fruit far outweighed the latter two. It almost became a mystery to find more of the ingredients I loved only to no avail. If there was at least twice the amount of the cheese and the strawberries this would have been an incredibly strong salad that would be completely worth the price.
After the salad was cleared from the table I had the New Zealand Cloud Bay Clams ($17). Served in a white garlic broth with fresh baked ciabatta, these clams were special as Aroha is the only place on the west coast to get these types of clams. Jumping into the bowl, the first thing I noticed was the garlic broth. In the spoons that were full of the broth it was clear that the taste was spiced in such a salted way that alone it may have been a bit sharp. However, in a spoon with the clams floating throughout it was the perfect flavor companion. The clams were so delicate and almost swam out of their shells.
Just a few moments after the clams disappeared, the entrée arrived. It was the Horopito Crusted New Zealand Venison ($45). The award winning and signature dish of the restaurant was a pan roasted deer atop sweet potato, cherry compote, pistachios, and a vanilla parsnip purée. At first glance, the cherry compote looked like it may have been dried out and that it would taste like raisins. However the second it touched my tongue it released such an incredible burst of tart juiciness that I wasn’t expecting. As I quickly erased the compote from the plate, I went over to the venison that subtly rested underneath wide strands of sweet potato. The deer was cooked to a delightful point right before it became too gamey. The crust lining the exterior of the meat looked beautiful, but there were a couple of instances where it was a bit distracting. My favorite part to it all was the gentle vanilla purée. It was smooth with light accents of sweetness making it the best companion to the meat and the semi crunchy sweet potatoes.
Before I found myself getting ready to head out and make the drive back home, I had dessert. I ordered the Housemade Hokey Pokey ($12). The plate was made with Belgium dark chocolate, vanilla bean ice cream, and coconut cookies. As I walked into this dessert with my spoon I loved discovering just how rich of a dessert it was to enjoy. It had a variety of flavors and textures that danced around my taste buds which alluded to the name. It was a sweet and creamy from the vanilla bean ice cream, bitter from the dark chocolate, crisp from the coconut cookies, and overall lovely when it all came together.
While the decision to go to Westlake Village wasn’t a hard one to make, the actual drive wasn’t as easy. Sure, Aroha may not be in the most popular city or surrounded by a variety of business to engage in after eating, but it is a nice restaurant to visit when given the chance. I may not be eager to do the drive once or twice a week, but I’m glad I did make the first trek out to Westlake Village, and I can see myself doing it again.
Address: 30990 Russell Ranch Rd C, Westlake Village, CA 91362
Phone: (805) 405-5054
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday – 5:30pm to 9:30pm, Sunday – 10:00am to 2:30pm and 5:30pm to 9:30pm.
Social: Website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Food tastes great
- Friendly staff
- Plenty of free parking