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Big Small Plates

From exotic entertainment
to tapas del día, Ventanas offers plenty to tempt diners through the many windows from which the restaurant takes its name.

From Boquerónes to Buñuelos to belly dancers: Ventanas — the tapas restaurant/lounge in the borderland where Chelsea meets the Meatpacking District — doesn’t believe in hiding its riches. Its pursuit of la vida dulce is as transparent as the floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows (ventanas, in Spanish, means windows) through which diners check out the action on the street and passersby can scope out the lively scene inside. For pure culinary and sensory overload, this is a first-class ticket to sunny Spain — the southern part, just a kiss away from North Africa.

Glass-and-brass hanging lanterns (no two are alike) cast a rainbow of jewel tones over the bar area, where imbibers ease into pillow-soft cushions (and each other) while nursing drinks like Hemingway daiquiris and Flor Bravas. Down a few shallow steps, the sunken dining room is dotted with well-placed wooden tables and straight-back, thronelike chairs. The far wall, made entirely of stacked rocks, forms a textured backdrop for a DJ booth and live entertainment: flamenco on Thursdays and the aforementioned belly dancers on weekends. The slender blackened columns that stab the space help to support the High Line that runs directly above Ventanas’ double-height ceiling. In a city where location is everything, what could be more on trend?

Also on trend is the food from chef Alberto Gonzales. Riding the small-plates wave, Gonzales ups the ante, sending out tapas del día (the menu lists just under 50 different options) that are generous in the extreme and perfect for sharing. Sample a nest of lighter-than-air fried zucchini, a plate of four maduros enrollados (plaintains rolled and stuffed with a classic marriage of Manchego cheese and Serrano ham) or two fat whole sardines, simply grilled and seasoned — each served on its own slab of toasted bread. The crispy plantain chips, provided to scoop up their spicy dense guacamole, are long, curled, tasty treats. Flaky empanadas, plumped with spinach and more of the ubiquitous Manchego, are favorites.

The dilemma here is less what to order, and more what not to order. So, a warning: If you’re contemplating one of the larger tapas de mesa (entrées) — among those on offer are paella, skirt steak and a zesty zarzuela of seafood cooked in white wine and perfumed with garlic — go easy on the tapas del día. We’d had our hearts set on Spanish black rice with calamari and shrimp, but our appetites gave out after the codfish croquettes.

Not that we left the desserts untasted or unappreciated: We devoured a trio of pastry chef Jesus Herrera’s traditional sweets: evanescent tres leches cake, rich tarta de chocolate and (saving the best for last) a superlative, off-the-menu silken flan, which our waiter conjured up as if by magic. Then again, magic seems to be what Ventanas serves best — beckoning to would-be diners from the other side of the glass.

By Francis Lewis

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Comments (1)

  1. The home was originally built when Rhode Islander,
    Hampton Lillibridge in 1796. A new of this effectively through
    the brand name Sorrento’.

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