Venus and the Cellar Bar
I love my husband. So, when his birthday rolled around earlier this month of course I wanted to treat him and take him out to a nice restaurant. I wanted to try this new place I heard great things about – good food, romantic atmosphere, excellent service. The only problem? He hates trying new places. So, on his special day I dragged him kicking and screaming to Venus and the Cellar Bar. Nice wife, right?
Well, yes. Yes I am. I was fully assured by Jennifer B. that Venus was fantastic, probably among the very best in the Valley, and she knows her restaurants.
We started with a drink downstairs at the Cellar Bar which has a very relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. When we made our way upstairs for our 6:00 reservations, we were surprised to find the restaurant empty and had our choice of tables. Eventually more diners arrived and filled most of the small space.
The service was prompt and our waitress was very knowledgeable. She explained the various tweaks to the quite limited menu for the day and ably made wine recommendations to complement our meal choices.
We were started with this lovely multigrain bread with olives, served with a sundried tomato tapenade. I was concerned – my husband is not a big olive fan and now here I dragged him to this new restaurant on his birthday and the first thing they serve him is a big ol’ olive double whammy! I tried it first and my first taste of the tapenade was all olive, no tomato. But the more I chewed and the more I tasted, this nice, warm, mellow tomato flavor came through. I watched and waited. There was no wincing, no funny faces. He likes it, hey Mikey, he likes it! The tomato flavor was prominent enough for him and he actually enjoyed the tapenade. Yes! Off to a good start.
For my appetizer, I selected the seared scallops which were served with a cauliflower puree and mango chutney. The seasoned and cooked perfectly; they were tender and fresh. And I am not sure if my new found cauliflower passion was at play or if that puree was somehow more intensely cauliflowerish than just plain cauliflower, but I am now all jacked up to make cauliflower puree like yesterday. And, not to be forgotten, the mango chutney added a sweet tang that balanced the whole dish.
Not to worry though – I didn’t get all of the appetizer goodness. My husband ordered the gnocchi with fresh local assorted cherry tomatoes in a chicken stock reduction with, ummmm, something green. Not sure what that is – looks like asparagus but that’s out of season so I am thinking either an herb or scallions. Either way, it was delightful. The gnocchi were light and fluffy and the sauce was balanced and so very savory. Birthday boy was still happy!
Before our entrees, an intermezzo was served and it was… unusual. It was a house made peach lavender vodka soda. I have issues personally with lavender as a foodstuff. I’m pretty sure it belongs in potpourri and soap but not so sure in a shot glass. We tasted it and agreed it was weird. I said it tasted like a ladies’ room smells but yet somehow was not completely offensive. It was the best I could do.
Here is my entree – trout! I had never tried trout before and my husband wasn’t so sure I should just order something like trout without knowing I liked it. I was brave though and glad I was! Trout, at least as prepared at Venus, is delicious! It was tender and buttery and the skin was light and crackly. It was served on a bed of arugula with fingerling potatoes and the chopped nuts added welcome texture.
For his entree my husband selected the lamb served with ratatouille and potatoes. The lamb was cooked just as he likes it with a charred, crispy crust and medium rare center and he enjoyed the sides as well.
And, because it was his birthday I insisted we have dessert which pretty much meant I had dessert because he was stuffed. I chose the almond poundcake with grilled peaches and fresh ricotta sauce. The cake itself was unremarkable but the peaches were of course delicious. The sauce might have been nice but apparently at Venus they are really into that peach and lavender combo and those little bits you see there are indeed the potpourri-like stuff.
Lavender aside, the meal was a success and the mean, mean wife was redeemed! My husband survived trying something new and even liked it. Happy birthday and you’re welcome, my dear!