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Review: Hazel Restaurant in Occidental

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Review: Hazel Restaurant in Occidental

by Vesta Copestakes

hazel-logo-web.jpgHazel Restaurant is the latest incarnation of Occidental’s “fine dining” locale, in what was the old Gianni’s Cyclery building at the northernmost end of town, across from the post office. My family and I have been there twice now, making an attempt to get a decent sampling of this fine establishment’s selections.

Full disclosure first and foremost—we are a family of foodies who are often very picky. Our now 12-year old son was almost literally (and certainly virtually) weaned at the first of the restaurants in this location—the West Pole Café (as a birth-to-almost-year-old, he reposed on the concrete table in his carry-in car-seat, while we dined!).

The foremost superstar on the menu, I’m happy to say, is a touchstone back to the glory days of the WPC which, alas, lasted only a year. Like the aforementioned restaurant, Hazel is getting maximum usage out of its wood-burning oven, producing the finest pizza in West County, in over a decade. Thin crusted and crispy, light yet sturdy enough to hold a plethora of ingredients without flopping over and spilling them, the pizzas are fantastic! My favorite so far is the mushroom w/ brie, but the one with blue cheese, figs, and walnuts was stupendous as was, I’m assured, the sausage, arugula, and egg version enjoyed by the aforementioned son.

Appetizers are the only course that wasn’t consistently superlative, but remember, we’re picky! On the pita plate, came eggplant, olives, feta, tzatziki yogurt concoction, and roasted red peppers. We enjoyed it all, though would have preferred that the pita be crisper. The portion of pita served was very generous, the olives and feta very good, but the dollops of eggplant, peppers, and yogurt felt a bit on the skimpy side. In our first visit, we thoroughly enjoyed a shaved scallop entrée, and today really liked the butter leaf salad with walnuts, fennel, and beets.

As I write this review, I realize that we’ve been on a reduced-meat period in our lives, so have only tried one actual main dish in two meals with five people! I am delighted to report that Hazel’s vegetarian entrée is superb! Red quinoa, maitake mushrooms, escarole, shelled English peas, grated cheese, and olive oil all contribute to the richest, most complex mélange of flavors I’ve experienced with vegetarian fare in many years. And, I can still look forward to trying their fish and/or rib-eye on my next visit!

We were nicely sated, so only had room to split Hazel’s sundae, which was near perfect—the right amount of quality ice cream, with tasty chocolate and caramel sauce and great toppings.

My only real caveat—is probably avoidable. Due to the fact that they’re fully utilizing both of their wood-burning ovens for all cooking, it was quite hot in the restaurant. I’m told that if one requests it, however, they will turn on their air conditioning. And in fact, very shortly after I got home (I’d left my card with our server), I got a nice follow-up email from the owner reiterating that option—so don’t be shy if it’s at all warm! Go and enjoy this wonderful new addition to West County dining.