Get in line at the Rhumb Line
A great transformation
By Allison Costa 08/09/2012
Rhumb Line — The Sunset Restaurant
1510 Anchors Way Drive
Sometimes it’s all about the little things … like a sweet note in your kid’s lunchbox or a shopkeeper greeting you as you walk in the door. Same goes for restaurants, where it is the gentle flourishes, like a sprinkle of sea salt or an unusual side dish, that make them stand out from the rest.
Such is the tale at the Rhumb Line, the new seafood eatery (named after the navigational term often used by sailors) at the Ventura Harbor.
On a recent Saturday night, we stopped in to find the place bustling, full of the sounds of chatter and the gentle melody emanating from a grand piano. The dining area is large and bright, with seating available on a variety of levels, all designed to give diners the best view of the water. Overlooking the dining room is a curved bar finished with modern details like colorful pendant lights and leather barstools. There is outside dining available as well, walled off to block the chill of the sea air and complemented by dark teakwood tables.
Hoping for a seat overlooking the water, we made a reservation, so when we arrived we were quickly seated at a corner table with a front-row seat to the outside: the teetering boats and the sparkling water couldn’t have been more picturesque.
Once settled, we dove into the menu and ordered drinks, the Firestone IPA (one of a handful of beers on tap) and a glass of the Kiara syrah from Paso Robles. Drink options include a handful of California wines and a selection of festive cocktails — like the Crimson Reaper made with gin and cherry liqueur and the Georgia Smash made with bourbon and peach liqueur.
The menu at the Rhumb Line isn’t overly large, a welcome contrast to the novellike menus you find in many eateries, the kind where it can take 20 minutes’ time to make up your mind. There are a selection of appetizers like tuna tartare with minted avocado, and fresh seafood served à la carte from the raw bar.
There are salads (think roasted candy cane beet salad) and steaks served with decadent finishes like bone marrow and charred baby turnips. The seafood entrees range from pan-seared Channel Island halibut to seafood pasta fra diavolo.
The Rhumb Line also offers a bar menu for those seated in the bar area, filled with items like chicken wings with chimichurri sauce and burgers finished with tomato marmalade and fried shallots.
Looking to start with a few classic dishes, we started with bowls of clam chowder and French onion soup, and the Oysters Rockefeller. The chowder offers a nice consistency, isn’t overly thick, and is filled with roasted potatoes and finished with a generous dash of Old Bay seasoning — a nice finishing touch. The onion soup is comforting and rich, with that familiar dark broth and the lovely topping of garlic crostini and melted Gruyère cheese. The oysters are topped with sautéed spinach, roasted shallots, bacon and hollandaise; though for us, the flavors of the bacon and sauce were hard to detect.
For our entrees, we couldn’t resist the lobster mac and the twisted shrimp and grits. The lobster mac is made with orecchiette noodles (the ones that look like little ears) and a velouté sauce (made with stock) instead of your typical béchamel sauce (made with milk). We enjoyed the small chunks of lobster and the richness of the sauce, but the dish lacked the creaminess normally associated with mac ’n’ cheese.
The shrimp and grits were simple in comparison: six large shrimp atop a bed of grits mixed with a vibrant-green spring onion pesto. Whereas grits normally have a smooth, porridgelike consistency, these are thicker, with more of a bite to them. Yet the crunch of the onions and nuts in the pesto give it a divine flavor and crunch, making it one of the standouts of our meal.
We couldn’t resist finishing our evening with a cup of coffee and a thick slice of chocolate layer cake (which is sourced from a bakery in L.A.). The towering slice was moist and fudgy, with all five layers sandwiched by a silky ganache, making it perfection on a plate.
Service throughout our meal was solid, prompt and friendly, though at the height of the busy dinner hour that evening, there were a few stretches where we didn’t see our server for a while, making it hard to order drink refills and request the check.
Bottom line at the Rhumb Line? With its unique use of ingredients and finishing touches, this new restaurant is definitely going to be a true contender in the Ventura dining scene.
Check out my food tasting tours at www.venturafoodtours.com, where you’ll find information on our walking tours, gift certificates and upcoming special events.