Ed. Note: Pacific by NoRu is now closed.
Balance – bal·ance, noun: a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance. Balance is exactly what restaurant owner James Norton and Chef Ren Weigang want to, and do, bring to Downtown Ventura with their restaurant, Pacific by NoRu.
Pacific by NoRu offers an upscale ambiance bringing classic dishes served with a twist, complex cooking combinations acting as hearty comfort food and a space to have fun, yet feel at home.
The restaurant, serving New American cuisine, offers fresh, farm-to-table food prepared by Chef Weigang to the mouths of locals and tourists alike. It’s a concept praised by the community for bringing quality and innovation to Main Street, unlike anything that has been there previously.
Sitting right off of Main next to the corner of Oak Street in Downtown Ventura, the restaurant is located inside of the old Italian Bank building, bringing revitalization and a fresh opportunity for success to its historic home.
Obvious to all walking through the doors, or venturing past the outdoor patio, it’s a team effort for quality, and a familylike environment among the staff. The staff is attentive to detail, trusting of their cooking and working counterparts.
What makes the restaurant susceptible to such success and admired by the community? The use of balance throughout the restaurant’s entirety – especially on the menu and throughout each plate.
For starters, the wok-seared Bluefin tuna crudo is made with Asian frisee slaw, sesame sauce, sunomono, and feta. The spiced fresh tuna, tangy and tender, is seasoned with a flavorful kick in each bite. The sesame slaw is as fresh as the tuna it adorns.
The heirloom tomato and burrata is a must when ordering. It’s made with macnut pesto kewpie, baby arugula, frisee, and lemon dressing. The entire plate is filled with fresh ingredients broadcasting the natural flavors throughout each bite – especially the perfectly ripe and juicy tomatoes. A special mention, the lemon dressing. The entire dish exemplifies Chef’s commitment to using fresh seasonal ingredients and not forgetting any portion of the plate.
The Osaka vegetable gyoza dumplings made with lemongrass ponzu, chili oil, fava sprout and green cabbage slaw will create a “wow” reaction as each bite melts in your mouth. Each dumpling, soft and tender. A highlight of the dish: the chili oil.
When it comes to main dishes, the sake-glazed salmon is made with spicy aminos, brown butter, shiitake and served with a green onion rice cake. The taste of the fresh salmon is complemented by the butter and spices.
Most definitely a highlight of the menu, and an item coming with high recommendation, is the Kalua pork and toasted gnocchi dish, two items one wouldn’t commonly think of together. The dish, served and made with fresh peas, preserved lemon, fried onion and asiago. Referred to as “balance in a bowl,” it uses staples from two different food genres: Italian and Asian. The high notes of lemon accent the dish and salt balances with the vegetables.
It’s obvious when talking with Chef Weigang that he clearly has fun with his creations and loves talking about them. Even when it comes to dessert, his creativity comes to play. He serves a spin on a classic panna cotta with his homemade maple panna cotta, which includes lilikoi gelee, mixed nut crumble, mint and pomegranate served on a stone slab. The dish, though a classic, is made with different layers to keep balance – ice cream being light and sweet and the Greek yogurt heavier and tart.
The story of Pacific by NoRu could not be written about without mentioning the bar, nor it’s bartender. The bar with its brick back and bright colors illuminating the many colorful bottles on display is a show-stopping piece to the space, though at the back of the restaurant. It’s a destination for each restaurant-goer at some point in the evening.
Professional mixologist DeLonne Kelly without a doubt shines brighter than the lights illuminating his workspace. The bar, having any combination of a cocktail one would want, has something very special on the menu only found at Pacific by NoRu: D’s Special, that is. A man who has over 20 years of mixology experience says knowing the science behind each liquor allows him to flourish behind the bar. The secret behind D’s Special is that every special served is different. When ordering, Kelly asks each customer a series of questions, discovers their likes and dislikes, and then creates a flavor profile for each person. After a series of flurries behind the bar, a customized creative cocktail emerges. Each special, a “playground in your mouth.” For myself, a cantaloupe martini that changes colors with each sip and a fresh cantaloupe garnish and a sugar rim.
Pacific by NoRu’s new seasonal menu launches Oct. 29. For more information about Pacific by NoRu, or to see the menu, visit pacificbynoru.com.