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Five a Day
Senses World Cuisine owner Jim Ritchie explains the name: "You use all five senses when you cook. You see the food, touch the food, obviously taste and smell the food, but also hear the food- the sizzle in the pan."
Opened just a few weeks ago, Senses occupies the long-vacant property on Van Ness just south of Olive. Along with co-owner and wife Catherine Curry, Ritchie serves a varied menu of tapas favorites made with organic, seasonal produce when possible and grass-fed, all-natural meats.
The tapas style of eating originated in Spain. The word comes from "la tapa," meaning the small amount of solid food that would cover a worker's wine jug both to prevent unwelcome particles from falling in and to tide the worker over until dinner later in the evening. A tapas meal generally consists of a number of smaller dishes shared at the table.
Senses' menu changes weekly, but always maintains a Mediterranean tapas feel. Dishes like fried sweet plantains with crème fraiche and stuffed portabellas with sausage are reminiscent of popular tapas restaurants in San Francisco.
The restaurant also offers a selection of salads and entrées, such as the salad with sweet black mission figs and lamb skewers, for Fresnans not quite sure they can handle the $5 to $10 tapas. Entrees average $15.
Originally from Chicago, Richie honed his culinary skills in the Bay Area for 16 years before opening Senses with his Fresno-native wife. He holds a PhD in linguistics from UC Berkeley and grinds all his own spices in the kitchen.
Curry, who is a graphic designer, created the restaurant's eclectic décor, which could only be described as Swiss Chalet with Middle Eastern touches. A roaring fireplace in the middle of the dinning room and the wooden beams give the area a warm, comfortable feel.
The menu is balanced with vegetarian and meat options, and always in season. One standout entrée was the curried coconut chicken breast served in a roasted pumpkin with Basmati rice. Tender chunks of chicken breast, celery, and bell peppers are served in a small, hallowed out roasted pumpkin along side fragrant basmati rice. The mild coconut curry flavor soaks into the tender pumpkin meat for a hearty, yet mildly sweet, combination. Desserts change weekly and incorporate seasonal produce as well. The winter jewel cake is a very modern take on the fruitcake, with dried apricots and currants nestled into a fluffy cake. Served with heavenly orange whipped cream and sprinkled with sweet pomegranate bursting with flavor, the dessert is a delight.
Senses plans to obtain a liquor license by the end of this month, but in the meantime you can bring your own wine and beer for no corkage fee.
Senses World Cuisine is located at 1130 N. Van Ness, just south of Olive. Open Wednesday through Saturday at 5:30pm. Phone: 445-1957.