Ventura County, Calif.


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Best Western Inn Of Ventura
708 East Thompson Blvd.
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181 East Santa Clara St.

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298 South Chestnut St.
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450 East Harbor
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5818 Valentine Rd.

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J's Tapas Restaurant Gourmet Dining, Indie Eclectic  Ventura, California


J's tapas ventura food photos
J's Tapas, 204 E. Main St., Ventura, CA Call: (805) 648-4853

California Dining


J's Tapas Restaurant in Ventura, California's Coastal Vacation Getaway

J's Tapas
From the moment we arrived in Ventura, Barbara was driven to find it.  I had been there before, but only for a reception and tour of Ventura's oldest commercial brick building. It was getting late and we hadn't eaten so I figured I could head back to the Crowne Plaza Hotel (used to be a Holiday Inn) and just sleep it off. My friend was on a mission, however, as I suggested we call it a day. She was undeterred and wouldn't listen. She kept walking, so I followed her along the lamp-lit sidewalks of Main Street on a cool, misty Ventura night, not understanding her persistence. Searching for a tapas restaurant she remembered and enjoyed several years ago from a romantic trip with her husband (we were on a girlfriend getaway), we forged one more block further, now near the end of the road for dining options. "Look up!" I shouted, as I watched her advance 15 or 20 feet ahead, then disappear. I tried to point out the bright yellow "J's Tapas" sign that lit up the night. But my friend was gone.


It was no surprise that I found her inside the door of J's Tapas, across the street from San Buenaventura Mission. Greeted by Jocelyn Collis, a beautiful woman with long black hair, a petite figure and charming smile, this candle-lit restaurant/nightclub featured music tuned to the steady beat of indieyou'd swear you're in an artists' colony or college community, surrounded by fine art, a trendy, upbeat vibe and some of the hottest, cutting edge cuisine, I was soon to discover. Modern sofas in one corner offer comfortable lounge space for casual groups or couples socializing over appetizers and cocktails. We opted for a small table for two, passing by several ladies with nice leather jackets & jeans, huddled next to their sweatshirt-hooded gents. They seemed wrapped in conversation in this low-key, "relax and stay a while" comfort zone.


Home to what was once an Italian grocery store established over 110 years ago, this restored building contains wood treatments, high ceilings, a beautifully-decorated cocktail bar with an amazing array of vodkas & liqueurs, and several dining rooms. Side by side restaurants with two names and two different menus are connected rooms in one building. We chose J's Tapas, while next door in a more traditional restaurant that's a little brighter and more formal with white linen tablecloths and red cloth napkins is Jonathans at Peiranos. Its walls are highlighted with racks that contain around 100 wines. The dynamic duo of dining establishments are owned and operated by the husband/wife team of Jason and Jocelyn Collis.

Chef Jason Collis is well known in dining circles. His award-winning menus feature Mediterranean-inspired cuisine in the traditional dining space and an appetizer menu in J's Tapas. Fusion foods with influences from Spain, Italy and France, plus an ambience that's Ventura-casual, encapsulate what San Buenaventura (Spanish for "good fortune") is all about.  You can't disguise Executive Chef Jason's skills and years of training. Collis graduated from one of 12 Le Cordon Bleu schools worldwide, and has worked in the kitchens of some of the top names in the food business.  In Ventura, his body of work, namely exquisite recipes, reflects a trend by chef's throughout the world to go local. Locally grown, seasonal produce is selected for menus based on what's available.  We've seen this trend in Vermont where it snows all winter and in New York, where growing gets a little tough for several months. California's fortune comes from the year-round temperate climate, and in Ventura County, a commitment to maintain open space for farming, one of its top economies. Assuring the freshest ingredients and flavors, Collis scouts out reliable sources such as Ventura's farmers market. He often purchases organic mushrooms from Santa Barbara, herbs, tomatoes and salad greens from Somis, and items from small, independent farmers.


The menu at J's Tapas is broad, offering a variety of scrumptious dishes at affordable prices (appetizers start at an affordable $3.) There are nearly 40 items on the menu that range from soups such as spicy crab bisque to salads delicately drizzled in fresh herb dressings. Vegetables such as Grilled Asparagus served with soy citrus mayonnaise, appetizers and gourmet libations are so addictive, people actually plan their road trips on Highway 101 for a stop at J's Tapas. Several popular crowd pleasers are the House Smoked Salmon Mousse and Antipasto Sampler for 2. The sampler includes Prosciutto Parma, Serrano ham, Sicilian black olives, Greek kalamata olives, smoked mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, Asiago cheese, Housemade Caponata, grilled marinated mushrooms, red seedless grapes, marinated artichoke hearts, and roasted garlic cloves. This seductive plate is perfect for a date (you both have to eat the garlic), or for friends and family.


Tapas (meaning "cover" in Spanish) come in hot or cold versions with a variety of options at J's Tapas restaurant. Satisfying as a stand-alone dish or with a salad for a complete meal, they're often served with a dipping sauce (see above photos, top left). Originating in Spain as finger foods to accompany cocktails during the period between the end of a work day and late dinner, there they are smaller and served much like bars in the U.S. offer free chips or cocktail nuts. In the United State tapas have taken on a whole new flavor with delicious fillings and larger portions to satisfy the hunger and lifestyle of Americans who may simply prefer a light dinner.


Listen up! If you haven't sampled tapas served with heavenly martinis, you're missing two treats that you can search the coast and never find, except at J's Tapas. Non-martini drinkers really need to give these cocktails a shake. Consistently winning awards, we sampled the Rose-Infused Martini (shown above) served with delicate, red rose petals. It was alluringand addictive. But it's just the start of great martini sampling.  Key Lime Martini made with Absolut Vanilla, natural key lime juice imported from Key West, triple-sec, brown sugar and a graham cracker-rimmed glass; Chocolate/Cherry Martini made with $70-a-bottle Ultimat black cherry vodka; Kiltie Martini, pairing Ketel One, single malt scotch, a few drops of 12-year-old malt scotch and a sprig of thyme should entice even a stout beer aficionado.


If you haven't gotten the picture, what's selected and served by the Colis clan is nothing short of the best. Celebrities making trips between Beverly Hills and their getaway estates on the Central Coast choose J's Tapas (and Jonathans at Peiranos) for dining while en route. Affordable and casual, it's well worth a stop on your next road journey between Southern California and Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach, Hearst Castle or San Francisco. Or better yet, stay in Ventura and enjoy this amazing destination with great hotels, shopping, dining, live theater, daily boat excursions to Channel Islands and seasonal whale watching.


The gracious couple working side by side, either in the kitchen or out on the floor where Jocelyn offers a friendly face and makes sure that service is great, are down-to-earth, nice people who quickly become friends. No matter what the occasion, and whether you're just passing by or plan to stay, J's Tapas in Ventura is one of our favorite stops on the California Coast. There are several fantastic restaurants along Ventura's Main Street offering different environments, menus and hours. But for gourmet preparations in a relaxed club atmosphere, J's Tapas is the finest choice. I'm anxious to go back to Ventura to sample more from J's Tapas menu, while Barbara confessed that in a few short months since we visited, she returned with her husbandand they live in Sacramento nearly 450 miles north of Ventura! I told you she's driven when it comes to J's Tapas.


Getting there: J's Tapas, 204 E. Main St., Ventura, CA Call: (805) 648-4853
Exit US Highway 101 at California Street (from the south) or Ventura Ave. (from the north).  Drive several blocks or 0.2 mi east away from the ocean and turn on Main Street. From California St. take a left and you'll find the restaurant a few block away on the left side of Main Street. From  Ventura Ave. take a right on Main St. and go a few blocks, where you'll find J's Tapas on the right side of the street. It is located across the street from Ventura Mission.


Cost: $3 - 15 for appetizers and tapas


Service: Opens at 5 p.m. daily; banquet facilities and special events are invited by arrangement; al fresco dining at a courtyard patio with water fountain is special, too!


Menu: Rotates every three months, check web site for updates:


Entertainment: Live jazz is served up weekly, usually Wednesday through Saturday, call to confirm: (805) 648-4853