Brooks in Ventura, California (Ventura County, south of Santa Barbara) is a bright spot in a culinary-challenged county. However, after two visits I'm convinced that the quality of the service exceeds the quality of the food, which is sometimes over-complicated or even served improperly.
On a visit in August, I had the beef short ribs which, while perfectly cooked and wonderfully tender, were served with an extremely sticky-sweet sauce that tended to overwhelm the plate. A dish this good deserves better than the equivalent of bottled BBQ sauce on top.
Then last night, we had the roasted artichoke starter, Romaine salad, and roasted red snapper. The artichoke dish featured a large portion of Brie encased in phyllo - yummy, but the portion of artichoke was too small and over-sauced. The Romaine salad is forgettable, overdressed and bland. And while the fish was fine, it arrived with lukewarm, slightly sweet saffron cream sauce and cold fingerling potatoes. At these prices, there's no excuse for dishes not arriving piping hot. Service (by Alana) was attentive and excellent, really exceeding the food quality.
The dining room is airy and modern with a high open ceiling, polished concrete floor and a loft-industrial feel. The space is divided by a long, bright bar into a lounge and dining area with open kitchen behind. Some diners might find it cold, but I find it to evoke an art gallery, calling for you to concentrate on your company, and your food.
I really want Brooks to succeed, but several dishes need to be re-thought and the kitchen needs to concentrate on perfection in quality.