Filler Window Of Opportunity

Ventana Grill Undergoes A Very Tasty Make-Over.
By Rebecca Cook

THREE MONTHS AGO, a consultant was brought in to help a restaurant where nothing was anywhere near as good as it should have been.

Chow The first step came in the person of Tina Jordan, hired away from her post as general manager at San Remo to become a troubleshooter at the Ventana Grill.

With the help of Assistant Manager Thomas Redman, Jordan totally cleaned house, hired a new chef and completely revamped the menu.

The Ventana Grill now boasts a new American grill menu that in no way resembles the previous offerings. Chef Ron Kain's Southwestern/ Southern cooking carries a particular emphasis on seafood dishes, for which he earned high accolades while at Jerome's.

Lunch is a fairly informal and leisurely affair with an abbreviated version of the more extensive dinner menu.

On a recent summer day, with the backdrop of the Catalina Mountains providing a dramatic display of dark clouds and flashing lightning, we sampled the caesar salad with strips of grilled chicken ($7.25) and an order of crab spring rolls ($5.95).

An abundance of gorgeous dark green romaine lettuce and chicken seared to flavorful perfection offered ample repast. The dressing, which is really the make-or-break issue for a caesar, was anchovy-salty, garlicky and altogether delicious.

The spring rolls were large bundles of crisp egg roll pastry filled with crab and shredded cabbage, red pepper, carrot and onion. A zippy soy sauce was served on the side for dipping.

Desserts at the Ventana Grill are spectacular in size and presentation as well as taste.

Image A gigantic brownie sundae ($4.50) boasted two prodigious wedges of chocolate around voluptuous scoops of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with chocolate sauce and sprinkled with fresh raspberries.

The rum riot ($4.25), a crisp phyllo filled with vanilla ice cream, topped with a rich caramel-rum sauce and flecked with chocolate sauce, was marvelous, with the profusion of rum sauce spiking the plate deeply appreciated.

Chef Kain's seafood specialty was patently obvious in the nightly special, an Alaskan halibut topped with fresh crabmeat, asparagus and hollandaise sauce ($15.95). Although rich, this dish did not overwhelm. The fish was tender and fresh, and its only drawback was that there didn't seem enough hollandaise to do the sizable serving justice.

Also worth mention is the blackened prime rib ($12.50), a generous slab of beef grilled to the prerequisite medium-rare. While not utterly tender, the cut was nevertheless tasty and admirably seasoned with a light hand so as not to ambush the palate.

Choice of rice pilaf or parmesan-crusted new potatoes and a medley of sauteed vegetables complement all Ventana Grill entrees.

Dessert that evening was a luscious tiramisu ($4.75), a confection for which I have an unadulterated passion. This version was cakelike and distinctive in that the chocolate ingredient came in small, discernible pieces.

Service on both visits bordered on sluggish but was never entirely neglectful and the young staff seemed eager to please.

The dining rooms at Ventana Grill are elegant and modern with high ceilings and lots of glass. The bar is a happening place, especially on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights when live music--primarily jazz and blues--is featured.

In with the new and out with the old is a philosophy that's taken hold in a glorious way at the Ventana Grill. If you haven't been back lately, you just don't know what you're missing.

The Ventana Grill. 6866 E. Sunrise Drive. 299-3666. Open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Full bar. V, MC, AMEX, DR, DC, CH. Lunch menu items $4.25-$12.50, Dinner menu items $5.25-$18. TW

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