By Aida Toro
Cities such as Manhattan, Beverly Hills, and Aspen are known to provide world-class dining as well as an experience full of glamour to consumers all over the world. Many want that glamorous experience that offers one of a kind gastronomy as well as a vibe. A destination that fits into the glamour dining category is Ventanas at The Modern, which isn’t located in any of these high profile cities, but in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Fort Lee is located right at the Eastern border of Bergen County in the New York City Metropolitan area situated atop the Hudson Palisades.
Ventanas’ doors recently opened in March and happens to be walking distance from the George Washington Bridge that leads into Uptown Manhattan. The restaurant’s name, Ventanas, defines windows in the Spanish language and The Modern is the luxurious residential skyscraper consisting of two towers which the restaurant sits in the middle of. Owned by Restaurateur Alex Duran, modern Asian-Cuban fare is offered at this locale, not to mention that Celebrity Chef David Burke who actually resides at The Modern, plays the role of Consulting Chef.
When my guest and I walked into Ventanas for an early dinner, and of course, to meet with Duran, dinner plates and drinks were flowing, which meant the place was busy. Duran was very professional and welcoming as he showed us around the 7,000-square-foot restaurant. The restaurant literally presents floor-to-ceiling windows containing quaint views of the newly-designed, two-acre park and outdoor terrace bar. Inside Ventanas, you’ll encounter three rooms you can consider venues, which Duran took us into. The venues are a tapas lounge, cosmopolitan bar and full-service dining room complete with a chef’s table. In one of the room’s, I felt as if I was in Gianni Versace’s mansion in Miami. I can’t forget the chandeliers and the stingray-like lamps that hung from the ceiling by the bar that provided the sexy yet glamorous vibe.
After showing us around, Duran sat us down at the tapas lounge and introduced us to Wine Sommelier Jerrus Roxas, Executive Chef Andrew Riccatelli, and General Manager Andrew Kaplan. The gentleman gave us their undivided attention. Riccatelli suggested some items for us to try, which we actually were curious enough to try because he gave us such a great picture to imagine of the items. My guest and I had appetizers which were the Guacamole, Clothesline Bacon, and Oxtail & Jack Cheese Croquettes. The Guacamole came with plantain chips rather than the occasional tortilla chips and was topped with diced pineapples and mango. This Guacamole was very refreshing compared to the other’s I’ve tried at different locales because the pineapples and mangoes made it feel as if we were at a luxurious resort, and of course, the plantain chips provide the taste of vacation as well. The Clothesline Bacon was interesting because the bacon strips are literally hung on a miniature clothesline which made me reminisce about my vacations in Medellin, Colombia since citizens hang their clothing on a clothesline out in their patios over there. This bacon was more than savory...it was finger licking good as I would say because I wanted to go for seconds. The bacon is glazed with a sour pickle maple and seasoned with black pepper.
As for the Oxtail & Jack Cheese Croquettes, the taste was out of this world since I usually consume Cuban Croquettes which are usually made out of ham. The croquettes at Ventanas, on the other hand, gave me a taste of real Cuban food as the oxtail tasted like the oxtail in the traditional Rabo Encendido, which is a Cuban Oxtail Stew. To top it off, the jack cheese gave it that savory and sharp taste that one receives when they sprinkle quality cheese on their food items. Lastly, our last item was dessert. The dessert we got was the Plantain Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich. This was the first time I ever had a waffle ice cream sandwich and I would most definitely do it again. The plantain waffles were fluffy and had a balanced sweetness to them. Between the two plantain waffles, were two gigantic scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream which you can’t go wrong with because those are two classic flavors that will never go out of style. The freshly made caramel sauce was drizzled on top of it as well as homemade whipped cream that tasted like heaven on earth. Caramelized bananas also surrounded the dessert which reminded me of a glamorous wedding I attended last fall in Manhattan’s Lotte New York Palace.
After we munched on our dessert, Roxas came over to our table and offered us some wine and gave us a lesson on the wines offered at Ventanas. Roxas brought us Old World and New World Cabernet Sauvignon. I preferred the New World as my palate felt it wasn’t too dry.
Once we were done with dinner, dessert, and wine tasting, a DJ showed up and started playing tunes of all genres from all generations. Ventanas turns into a lounge after 10 pm and provides an atmosphere where you and a group or your girlfriends might want to come all dolled up to dance the night away. Indeed, if you want to have a taste of cuisine like no other, experience an over the top customer service, and want to dance the night away, then Ventanas should be on your go-to list.