The writer was invited to visit VENTANAS and the meal was complimentary.
New Jersey’s brunch scene will never be the same with the arrival of VENTANAS Restaurant and Lounge, in Fort Lee, NJ. VENTANAS is a modern, American-Asian-Cuban fusion destination headed by restaurateur Alexander Duran and culinary icon Chef David Burke.
When I went to the restaurant for brunch, I was wowed by the space, the food, and the service.
I was taken aback when I entered VENTANAS as the exterior of the building, off Park Avenue in Fort Lee, is more understated than the magnificent interior.
The spacious room features floor-to-ceiling windows (ventanas, in Spanish) providing welcomed natural light to the main dining room and a gorgeous view of the outdoor terrace and of the two-acre park situated in the rear of the building.
The 7,000-square-foot restaurant is divided into three venues: an intimate tapas lounge, a large horseshoe-shaped bar, and an expansive full-service dining room complete with a chef’s table. The vibe screams old Havana with its red and black accents and hanging chandeliers.
About Chef Andrew Riccatelli
Chef Riccatelli’s passion for food came at an early age, through his Puerto Rican-and-Hungarian family gatherings, which involved large amounts of food. The hard-rock-drummer-turned-chef started his culinary journey at acclaimed NJ restaurant, Stage Left, then took his talents over the bridge to NYC, where he worked under Bobby Flay at Bar Americain.
From there, he spent a year in Asheville, North Carolina, working under James Beard-nominated Chef Katie Button at Curate, and then returned to NYC to work alongside both the Buddakan and Spice Market teams.
Chef Riccatelli went on to win the Food Network’s Chopped “Something Dumpling” episode. Before joining VENTANAS, Chef Riccatelli was executive chef at NYC’s bagatelle, a meatpacking district staple.
Chef David Burke, VENTANAS’s culinary managing director, has collaborated with Chef Andrew Riccatelli to design creative dishes with bold Latin and Asian-influenced flavors for the brunch menu.
I started our brunch with a Strawberry Smash, a delicious drink made from Bulleit bourbon, fresh lemon juice, strawberry, mint and rosemary. My dining companion enjoyed one of the craft beers on tap.
We shared a few starters, Joey Bag O’ Donuts, lobster dumplings, and empanadas. Chef Burke’s whimsical food presentation was evident in these dishes. The warm doughnuts are served in a brown paper bag, à la carnival zeppoli. The dish includes three squeeze bottles filled with Boston crème, chocolate and berry jam to gild the lily—a must-order dish. Even though they’re delicate, the lobster dumplings pack a punch with bold flavors from the spicy tomato, miso and chili oil—another absolute must. The flaky empanadas are filled with spinach, artichoke, and goat cheese and served with chipotle aioli.
For our entrées, we opted for the VENTANAS burger and the pastrami smoked salmon Benedict. The burger features a flavorful, beefy blend of well-seasoned meat and topped with cheddar cheese and a malt aioli. I predict this will make many top burger lists in the Garden State.
The Benedict showcased corn arepas in lieu of the typical English muffins. I found that while they introduced an additional layer of flavor, the arepas didn’t hold up as well as the muffins would in the dish. Masterfully cooked, the eggs had a perfectly gooey yolk, and the smoked salmon gave the dish a welcomed twist.
On a future visit, we’ll sit on the spacious outdoor terrace and order Chef Burke’s signature Clothesline Bacon. We’ll also try the K-Town wings and calamari rings as we enviously eyed them at a nearby table this time around.
VENTANAS Restaurant and Lounge
200 Park Avenue
Fort Lee, NJ 07024