OK, I admit it: I hadn’t been overly anxious to try Ventana, lumping it together in my mind with sister restaurant and neighbor in Belltown, Twist. Don’t get me wrong, Twist has an endless happy hour that includes well-priced and perfectly good small plates, but I didn’t think of it as particularly food-focused. So I was pleasantly surprised when a friend and I decided to try Ventana for happy hour one recent evening, and came away impressed.
We started off with some especially inventive cocktails: Dirty Parisian (vodka, spicy cornichon brine and cornichon pickles as garnish), Pom Pom (pomegranate vodka, St. Germain liqueur, prosecco and pomegranate juice) and even tried a sample of the Bloody Mary (bacon vodka, Armin’s famous bloody mary mix and chorizo sea salt topped with crisp bacon and Jerusalem artichoke).
The chorizo sea salt from the bloody mary is part of a line of specialty salts created by the chef, several others of which appear throughout the menu. Two of the standouts from the list of happy hour bites were the Bristol Bay Salmon Crudo with almond crème fraiche, cucumber and fennel, and the Salt Cod Beignets. Now, saying “breaded salt cod” may not sound amazing but the doughy texture paired with roasted butternut squash fondue made for the perfect sort of happy hour snack-y item.
Comparing the dinner menu with the clearly very “constructed” plates that passed us on the way out of the kitchen, I’m looking forward to a return visit. Maybe for the Potato Samosa Raviolo (Thai chili, cilantro, honeydew and coriander broth), or the Roasted Hen of the Woods Mushrooms (griddled toast, basil and fried duck egg) or the Lacquered Duck Breast (cauliflower puree, truffle vinaigrette and shrimp chorizo). Also, manager and our bartender for the evening, Armin, tells me that they are just starting half price wine on Monday nights so add that as another reason to stop by and check out Ventana.
[Glossy photo of Ventana’s interior courtesy of the restaurant]