Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tapas in Ann Arbor: Aventura is my foodie happy place

I recently discovered while having dinner with my husband at a new Spanish tapas restaurant in Ann Arbor why I consider myself a foodie.

It was close to the end of our meal during our second visit to Aventura, and I was describing all of the nuanced and complementary flavors that were occurring in all of the dishes we ordered, when I said to my husband, "This is why I love food. Because when it's done artfully and with passion, it is a heightened sensory experience. And as a writer, English teacher, and lover of words, nothing gets me more excited than to describe all these flavors and textures."

Since Aventura's opening a little over a year ago, my husband and I have dined there four times and not one of those four times has been disappointing. In fact, quite the opposite. Each time my love for this restaurant grows and grows. We were elated over the opening of a Spanish tapas bar in Ann Arbor since the closing of our favorite tapas place in Royal Oak, which had the best sangria of any place on the entire planet. Even Aventura's sangria, while good (it's more spicy and herbaceous than fruity), can't hold a candle to the sangria of our former favorite tapas place, appropriately enough called Sangria.

But what Aventura's sangria lacks, they more than make up for it in their food. While our former favorite tapas place had good food, when stacked up against Aventrua, it isn't even a fair fight. They have managed to create dishes that sound unusual enough to question the sanity of the chef, but not so much that you're not curious enough to try it. A perfect example of this is their dessert called Tarta Basura, which is described thusly:

pretzel crust, caramel, chocolate ganache, shoestring potato chips, buttered popcorn ice cream

We ordered this dessert in addition to TWO others when my husband and I took a friend to Aventura a couple weekends ago. The other two desserts were good (the dipping sauces that accompany the
Aventura desserts
Tarta Basura, Brown Butter Cake, and Churros
churros are out of this world:  espresso chocolate sauce, crème anglaise, salted caramel) but the Tarta Basura with its variety of textures and its perfect balance of salty and sweet was the star of our self-created dessert flight.

In addition to unusual food combinations, another superlative of Aventura is that I have felt bold enough to try dishes that include foods I normally despise because they handle food with such care and passion. The Brussels sprouts are charred just enough to bring out a lovely umami flavor without any of that mushy, sulfuric taste/texture combination so many of us are still traumatized from experiencing when our moms forced us to eat them as children. A weekly special during a recent visit included a roasted sweet potato dish with green onions, garlic, and feta cheese. Once again, I am not a fan of sweet potatoes, but I knew from my experience with their Brussels sprouts that if anyone could change my
Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes
Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes: two things I normally hate are stellar at Aventura
mind about my distaste for them, Aventura could. And sure enough, I was right. Now I'm slightly upset that I ordered this dish since it was a special and can't go back and order it again. I told our server that they need to put that dish on the regular menu.

Speaking of servers, let's talk about them, shall we? They are, quite simply, some of the best, most knowledgeable servers you will ever encounter in a restaurant. Clearly they are asked to sample the dishes as part of their training and education because their enticing descriptions of the food comes from a place of sincerity and enthusiasm. It feels more like I'm having a conversation with another food enthusiast rather than the typical restaurant experience where the only time you talk to your server is to tell them what you want and to inform them when you need more of something. Because of that feeling of amiability and collegiality, you also can feel comfortable enough to tell them when something in a dish isn't working. I remember the second time I visited Aventura, our waiter was so personable that I felt compelled to tell him that I enjoyed my chorizo, kale, bean, and potato soup, but I would have liked it better if the kale had been in smaller pieces running throughout, rather than just in two big chunks. He thanked me for telling him and said, "We appreciate this kind of feedback."

Our most recent visit to Aventura was last Friday to celebrate some really good news I had received that day: I had just been selected as the winner of the most outstanding grad student in the English studies program at my university. My husband and I go to dinner every Friday as it is our date night and we had planned to go to a different restaurant, but when I received this good news and my husband said we should celebrate, I came home from work and said, "Well since we're celebrating ME, then I want to go to Aventura." And so we did.
Celebrating at Aventura


  1. This was lovely and I enjoyed hearing about all the tasty dishes that you sampled. I have not ever eaten tapas, but I've heard good things from others. The desert you described sounded wonderful - although, for me, chocolate ganache could probably make me try almost anything. The Brussels sprouts dish also sounded good. My husband is totally anti-sprouts, but perhaps....and congrats on your good news!

  2. Ok. Next time I visit my parents I MUST drive up to Ann Arbor. And wowowowowow on your great news. Super!

  3. This sounds delicious! Our favorite tapas place closed a few years ago and I still miss it. Supposedly there's another one that's good but I haven't tried it yet. This sounds like such a lovely meal!

  4. YUMMMMMM!! I love Brussels sprouts--is that a bit of yogurt or cream on top of yours? The sweet potatoes look really delicious as well. What a fun way to experience foods that you might not necessarily want to cook yourself. And congratulations on your award!! Fantastic news!

  5. Congrats on the good news! And Aventura sounds superb! Thanks for all the mouthwatering descriptions. Those brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes look so yummy, not to mention the Tarta Basura . . . :)

  6. OMG - you have made me want to beam myself to Ann Arbor to go to this place! The brussels and the sweet potatoes look amazing and the dessert too...I love it when savory stuff appears in dessert!

  7. Congratulations on such an honor and on discovering such a great restaurant!

  8. The food looks amazing! Congratulations on your good news!

  9. Always good to find a good restaurant. Cheers frm Carole's Chatter

  10. Congratulations on your award and even though I'm not a brussels sprouts fan, your photo may change my mind.