Ventana expansion: twice as big, twice as cool

dish-ventana-table-aLast week, Mexican restaurant Ventana opened its new and larger space on the Downtown Mall.

Last week, Ventana, the “avant-garde” Mexican restaurant on the Mall at Fifth Street SE, lived up to its name, which means “window” in Spanish. Following a two month renovation, during which they expanded into the gallery space formerly occupied by Migration: a gallery (which migrated to an online-only presence this summer), the once tiny 800-square foot restaurant is now over 2,000 square feet of modernity and features a wall of enormous windows that wrap around the Water Street side of the building.

For owner Michael Fitzgerald, the new space has finally given him some breathing room. Since opening last year in the space originally launched as Kiki, he says he had always felt the space was too small, but with the gallery next door there was no place to go. Still, that didn’t prevent Ventana from becoming one of the trendier late-night spots on the Mall, thanks to the big-city d©cor, one of the most impressive tequila bars in town, and a menu of gourmet margaritas.

Oh, and there’s the food as well, served up by chef Sebastien Jack, who has managed to blend a sophisticated array of Spanish, French, and Japanese influences into the menu, hence a tuna taco with wasabi sour cream, an escargot empa±ada in pepper butter, and a crowd favorite– the “deconstructed” lobster and chorizo burrito.

The new space was designed by Architect Stephen von Storch, who also happens to be Fitzgerald’s landlord, while Heartwood builders and metal worker Steve Brownell brought it to life. It’s a distinctly nocturnal design. While the space looks a little naked during the day, at night, thanks to all those windows, it becomes a veritable terrarium of mingling humans and downtown chic.

Along with the expansion, Fitzgerald says Chef Jack has also tweaked the menu, mixing in a few surprises with the old favorites, ramping up the pastries for instance, and creating a Sunday brunch that will debut  September 20, 11am to 3pm. There’s also an extensive late-night menu served until 1am, featuring selections from the main menu, as well as cheese plates and sampler dishes.