Jeffrey Saad is a chef with a lot of TV time under his belt. He was the host for three seasons of The United Tastes of America on the Cooking Channel. He was the first runner-up on The Next Food Network Star. He came in second place to Marcus Samuelsson on Chopped All-Stars. His website says of him, "Jeffrey Saad is a rising star ready to ignite the globe with his inspirational cuisine." For now, at least, he is hoping to ignite Studio City with his new Mexican restaurant, La Ventura.
La Ventura, which opened in mid-December, is certainly an attractive spot. The light airy space is punctuated by pops of bright color: a yellow wall here, yellow metal barstools, red flowerpots and a huge metal green light fixture hanging over the center of the room. On one of these oddly gorgeous winter afternoons, the patio, which sits along Ventura Boulevard, was a fantastic spot to eat lunch.
Saad spent some time in his early culinary career eating and cooking across Mexico, and the menu at La Ventura reflects a broad, lightly Americanized version of Mexican cuisine. You can get chips and salsa, nachos, tacos and burritos. You also can get whole red snapper rubbed in achiote and cooked on the grill, or a quinoa salad with roasted chiles and feta cheese.
We tried the ceviche of the day, which was scallop and tasted oddly acrid on the finish, as if it had a dash of bicarbonate soda. Three salsas were brought to the table, all of them intense but just a wee bit flat.
The carne asada taco, which came grilled with chunks of pineapple, was totally satisfying - the meat tasty, the corn tortillas warm and pliant.
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We also tried the duck confit mole. The duck was really cooked quite well, with a hard crisp on the edge, but a soft fatty interior. The mole that it came in was thick and mild - perhaps a little too mild. The menu didn't specify what kind of mole it was, but I'm assuming it was heavy on the pumpkin seeds and lighter on the spicing, which is perfectly fine and good. But it tasted a little one-note.
As a place to come gobble tacos and drink margaritas on a nice patio or in the attractive dining room, I can see a lot of value in La Ventura. I'm not sure it's going to ignite the globe, but after all, that's quite a high bar to set for yourself.