First, full disclosure - my wife and I have been coming to the Ballard Inn for 10 years though we live on LA. I truly have never been disappointed in a meal I've gotten here and neither has my vegetarian wife. Our most recent meal was no exception.
One amazing thing Chef Budi does is take care of vegetarian diners though it appears that nothing vegetarian is on the menu. All you have to do is mention "I'm a vegetarian" and the kitchen will go off and create a meal that meat eaters are jealous of and it happens every time. On top of that, the staff is very friendly and attentive which makes dining there an added pleasure. They are knowledgeable about the wines and make you feel like a truly welcome guest.
On our most recent dining adventure there, my wife, as usual mentioned she was a vegetarian to the waitress and asked what were they serving that night. Our waitress replied that the best thing to do was leave it up to the kitchen and they will come up with something amazing. With that, her entree order was done! I ordered the Seared Halibut with Potato Croquette, Tapenade with Carrot-Star Anise Reduction sauce. For appetizers we started with the Roasted beet salad with pine crusted goat cheese and Mandarin Vinaigrette (her) while I got the Sesame Caesar salad. The meal also comes with bread and I have to say that was the weakest part of the dining experience - rather bland (I know you can do better there!).
My salad was excellent, the large whole romaine lettuce leaves have a light dressing over them and were covered with white and black sesames. The sesame flavor was light and complemented the traditional Caesar taste. This is one of my favorite Cesar salads in SoCal and I have tried them all (or so it seems). I tasted my wife's beet salad and it was great. Next time I'll be getting that appetizer to start.
When our entrees arrive, my wife gets basically a veggie Bento box plate (see photo) filled with amazingly tasty creations; creamy (really creamy) polenta, pureed eggplant with a crispy chip, roasted cauliflower with chard and a carrot and star anise reduction sauce drizzled on it, chantrelle mushrooms with greens and some other greens (Napa cabbage?) and finally Napa cabbage with a great sauce on it. My wife was kind enough to let me taste them all and my favorite (by a hair) was the polenta. All of the selections were truly great and she was super pleased with the meal.
My halibut was also amazing (see photo). The fish was cooked pitch perfect and the seared crust on the fish was fantastic and combined so well with the reduction sauce. Having this meal made me realize why I love discovering great restaurants - there is no way I could create a dish like this at home and do it so well.
We finished off our meal with two desserts; banana bread pudding with cream cheese ice cream (me) and Chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and ice cream (her). I liked her dessert but I loved mine - the banana flavor, bread pudding and ice cream (really creamy) were such a great combination.
Last to note - the wine selection there is fantastic. We had a glass of SYV viognier and riesling that complemented our meals quite nicely.
All in all a very satisfying dining experience. Every meal we've had there has been 5 star (including the New Year's pris fixe 5 course meal with wine pairing - did that twice). The meal isn't cheap but it is certainly worth the value and then some. If this restaurant was in LA it would be way more (and still worth it).
One last thing - though the dining area is nice, it could use a little updating...but that didn't take away anything from the meal or the entire dining experience. Amazing once again! Thanks Budi!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.