At a recent launch, the owner of Hush — the former Table 13 — went all-out, introducing the crowd to the nightclub and restaurant simultaneously. It was a rare treat, as the genuine nightclub seems to be in a steady decline, at least in this city. Restaurants and bars are plentiful, but proper nightclubs, where dining, dancing and high-end cocktails are on the menu, are a rare breed. Hush is one such establishment, with pitch-perfect interior décor: deep burgundy curtains, dim corners and private booths with an icy bar. Simply put, Hush is bleeding atmosphere, bringing to mind a big-city nightspot.
On this night, we were allowed to sample the best Hush has to offer and I’m happy to report that attention to detail in the surroundings does not come at the expense of the menu. Each dish was an artful twist on fixtures of American cuisine, and the meal began promisingly with delectable bread selections: dinner rolls were nothing short of luscious, specifically a starter of the parmesan-brushed garlic square variety. Next came the Chinese chicken salad, with sweet Mandarin oranges slices complementing tangy marinated chicken slices. “Fish and chips” featured flash-fried halibut served on a bed of mixed greens and stringed pommes frites, with a sweet tartar sauce drizzled sparingly, blurring the lines between deep-fried institution and healthy dining option. A memorable pan-seared halibut followed, then a surprisingly light and delectable braised beef.
Meanwhile, Hush features a few nightclub traditions I’d just as soon dispense with, like punishing uniforms for the wait staff; while the bartenders looked chic and comfortable in sensible all-black, our accommodating waitresses were forced to endure white spandex toga mini dresses. I can’t say that, as a young woman, the regulation uniforms added to my comfort level. There is a solidarity among those of us who have worked in the service industry, and an even deeper bond for those who have experienced the indignity of a gender-specific uniform that is so revealing it influences the wearer’s choice of undergarments.
If the uniforms were a one-off, fair enough. Otherwise, I implore Hush’s owner to reconsider. An establishment can have class without making its clientele feel that a lap dance is just a wink and a smile away.
Hush also offers bottle service, an amenity foreign to many in the area, although New York Magazine asserts that “no New York club is opening without it.” For the uninitiated, it means that paying often five or six times the retail price for a bottle of a recognizable name brand — Stoli, Grey Goose, Bacardi — ensures you the undivided attention of a waitress and presumably a roped-off area of the club. The tradition has caught on in larger cities, specifically where finding a table often means getting combative with other customers. In the middle of a frenetic desert oasis, such an option might be more fitting, but in the more residential Ventura, where a quick drive to Vons will save you a hundred, bottle service is a brave experiment for Hush. It might just be the rare treat that will push this local above its competitors, offering club-goers the chance to feel like hip-hop royalty.
Meanwhile, for the more conventional clientele, there is an adventurous drink menu fit for happy hour or a Saturday night out.