“Whoa, I am way underdressed.”
Walking into Brooks, the latest bourgeois restaurant to sweep into downtown Ventura, wearing the same black jeans and dirty hooded sweatshirt combo I’ve been sporting for the last three days, this is what I think. It’s not that the place bowls you over with its fanciness — it basically looks like someone wheeled the set for an upscale restaurant into an open warehouse — but you can tell the owners want it to. So to have me sitting in there, across from some locals enjoying post-work glasses of wine, sort of ruins the atmosphere.
Oh, well. I’m used to it.
Anyway, the arrival of Brooks, which is not themed after the local photography school (although a lot of Brooks graduates will likely end up busing tables there), has been met with much fanfare from residents who believe a meal less than $20 is not worth eating. Maybe this isn’t my scene, or perhaps I’m just cheap, but I don’t understand how someone can pay $14 for pan-seared New York foie gras, then drop $24 on a “coriander-dusted big eye tuna.” Maybe it’s because I don’t know what any of that means. Who cares if a tuna’s eye is big?
Brooks currently only offers dinner — though lunch is on the way — so I stumbled in at around 5 p.m. and immediately ordered the grilled salmon (I had checked out the menu online, so I wouldn’t have to spend more time at the restaurant than needed). When dining at these kinds of establishments, I never know what to expect. For $20, I would hope to see a big slab of fish covering almost the entire plate. But, of course, I would not have been shocked to receive a pink square the size of a ring box with a piece of parsley next to it, either.
It was the latter.
I stared at the brick of salmon before me, which, to be fair, was bigger than a ring box — more like a glasses case. “I could literally eat this thing in two bites,” I thought. For the amount of money I spent on this, I could have lived like a Ramen king for six months.
But let me tell you this: That may have been the densest salmon I’ve ever eaten. It satiated my hunger about as much as the huge chunks of salmon my dad used to cook up, and did it in half the size — and with twice the flavor. The creature came in a wading pool of roasted corn black pepper broth, which added a hint of sweetness to every bite. It sat on a bed of sautéed collard greens and came topped with bits of smoked bacon. I did finish the meal — which included bread with a mildly spicy white bean pate, free of charge —rather quickly, but it left me shockingly satisfied.
When Brooks starts doing lunch, I’ll have to see what their $18 grilled salmon tastes like. I just won’t be able to afford to drive to work the next day.