A grand opening is always fun and when it promises a new watering hole and eatery, it is doubly enjoyable. The Westin Hotel at Forrestal Village launched its newly refurbished lobby lounge and restaurant with a gathering on one of the glorious Princeton spring days.
Parallel 40, the renovated space where there used to be a sushi bar, is open and airy. Glass walls move the space into the high windowed lobby so it flows into the gardens of the patio. There is ample room between the tables. The cuisine is global fusion, taking as its cue the countries through which the 40th parallel passes around the world: Portugal, Spain, Italy, China, Japan, and the U.S. (Did you know Princeton is located along the 40th parallel?) The flavors and spices are blended in creative ways and are enhanced by the use of what general manager Marc Fornier calls “superfoods” — heart-healthy foods known to be high in antioxidants: blueberries, soy, oats, and avocados, to name a few.
The menu offers such unusual groupings as Korean chicken sate with soy and a spicy pomegranate molasses ($7). Both the butternut squash soup and the Asian chicken soup (both $6) feature organic vegetables, as do the other dishes. Appetizers include a variety of salads which can be enhanced with free-range chicken, a mushroom medley, or herb grilled shrimp for $13.
Entrees include sesame and red tea crusted Ahi tuna for $24; free-range chicken with tangerine honey ($18), and a lamb loin with a fig glaze ($32). The ubiquitous burger is on the menu but this is not your meager beef round on a bun. The Best Burger is a one-third of a pound of Nebraska Angus grass-fed beef, heirloom tomatoes, and caramelized onions on a Spanish olive oil bun. At $13, it is a worthy main course.
Desserts have a twist as well. The creme brulee is dark chocolate and vanilla bean ($5) and the seasonal berries are scented with tangerine honey ($6).
Breakfast also follows the theme of good foods creatively paired. Blueberry smoothies, steel cut oats, and field grown fresh berries are offered along with organic egg omelets.
The wines are chosen to complement the meals and again focus on the countries of the 40th parallel. Prices range from glasses at $8 to $14 and full bottles from $30 to $54. Special cocktails, or elixirs, are offered in both the restaurant and the lounge ($10). I can personally recommend the white pear sangria, not too sweet and refreshing on a warm spring evening. Vintage cocktails such as the sidecar and gimlet have their own individually tweaked tastes. There is even a passionfruit vodka concoction called the Unparallel 40, a libation sure to go down easily.
The companion lounge in the lobby, called Latitude, is decorated with soothing greens and warm brown leather. It too boasts a wide-open ambiance with rippled glass walls giving it an Eastern feel. Several of the restaurant’s appetizer and entree selections can be ordered in Latitude along with chili, nachos, personal pizzas, and several other offerings. The patio opens off the lounge and I was told that the hotel hopes to have more open air events. Nightly activities feature wine tasting on Tuesday and Nintendo Wii on Thursday.
This new venue with its combination of geared-up health-conscious cuisine, quiet setting, and outdoor seating is a welcome addition to the Route 1 corridor. The sound of the highway is muted and the invitation to unwind is genuine. Parallel 40 and Latitude are good combinations of value, comfort, and surprise.
Parallel 40 and Latitude Lounge, Westin Princeton, 201 Village Boulevard, Princeton Forrestal Village. 609-452-7900. Sunday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.