My guest and I were attending a show at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, so decided to get in the mood with some food and drink at the neighbouring and new “Ventura Room”.

This was described as as a California-inspired bar, celebrating cocktails and live music. There was none of the latter this Sunday night at 5pm, when they first opened. But we would partake in the former, at least. To be honest I don’t know what “California-inspired” means, but the energy was laid-back, set to the tunes of hip hop and jazz.

There was plenty of space in the chic lounge. A wheel chair lift provided accessibility for the handicappable, a lengthy backlit bar spoke to the depth of their cocktail program, and there was plenty of seating to choose from: from high tops to booths. Set dark, you can just make out the golden geometric pattern that adhered to a mirrored backsplash, the tile trim that was set against a concrete wall, and a series of black and white photos that spoke to the history they wanted to put on display. The latter-most included suits and skirts toting cigarettes, attractive mug shots, and playboy bunnies in full costume. We would grab a seat under these, to set the tone.

The food menu was limited with the real focus being on wine and spirits. Small bites like pork jerky, nuts & olives, and wings. Along with a whole page dedicated to fusion sushi rolls. We would grab one of the latter, a trio of tacos, and a sushi-taco combo.

Our choice of their street tacos included baja fish, pulled pork, and a vegetarian cauliflower. We would get the “chipotle chicken” with lime crema, cilantro verde, feta, pickled red onion, and cilantro. They came in a trio, and our server was kind enough to offer us the option to pay for, and add on one more so we could have two each. We declined knowing we would order more tacos below. The “Chipotle chicken” was good, but nothing to write home about. It came to us cold, overflowing with filling for a messy meal. The squirt of lime helped to add zest when I was craving more seasoning and flavour.

I preferred the “ahi tuna tacos” a lot more. It had much more character and flavour thanks to the chili ginger seasoned tuna, yuzu aioli, avocado, daikon sprouts, and sushi rice. It was basically sushi deconstructed and re-housed into a batter and fried wonton-like shell. I liked the spicy kick and crispy crunch, but found each bite too creamy. So much so that you don’t get the taste of the tuna and the filling fell mushy.

We did try one of their sushi rolls. Given the bar setting and the rest of the menu, we played it safe with a fairly flavourful sounding fusion roll. The “crispy coconut shrimp roll” with panko shrimp, avocado, green onion, thai peanut sauce, and toasted sesame. I liked this the most out of all that we had. It was the definition of fusion sushi. Fresh with the scallions, hearty with the room temperature rice. I didn’t make out much of the shrimp or coconut, and found it very much so needed a dip in soy sauce for salt and flavour. Average at best.

As for drinks we had to get one of their share drinks, listed as “keys in the bowl” on the menu. There are only two options, both served in a gilded gold pineapple tumbler. We were immediately drawn to the “NSFW” (not suitable for work) for its name, but convinced to spend $3 more for the “Smokey the pear” given our server’s description of it. Hearing that it came with incense peaked our interest. But in reality, its scent doesn’t really add anything to the flavour of the drink, it simply gives it a certain mystique. As for the cocktail itself, it was smoky as the name promised, with a complex and juicy flavour thanks to absolut elyx, calvados, pear juice, lapsang, souchong tea, and lemon. But I wanted more smoke, and a stronger punch. Given that it was fairly easy to drink, I don’t know why it was recommended as a shared beverage. There was far too much ice, giving you the illusion of having more for less. And the pineapple is a fun novelty, but not one I haven’t experienced elsewhere.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I would come back out of ease, if looking for a destination before a show at Queen E. What we had today was not enough to have me declaring them a destination. I would describe what we had as “drunk food:” average in quality, but best when tipsy, and if you aren’t honing in on the nuances of it. Don’t deny your cravings.

VENTURA
695 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V6B 0K9
(604) 620-5547
venturaroom.com