Wine complements food, wine knowledge complements food writing. In New York, no restaurant is as wine focused as Veritas.
In 1998, entrepreneur Park B. Smith had amassed a truly awesome collection of over than 70,000 bottles of fine wines. A quick calculation revealed that at a rate of a bottle per night, it would take over 110 years to consume it himself. To solve this problem, he opened Veritas (as in In vino, veritas). Soon wine aficionados from all over the city started gathering at the bar, where some of the rarest wines from both the new and old world are found in multiple verticals, with more than 3,000 selections in all. The food matched the image of a glass of red wine: formal, traditional, white tablecloth fare.
Last year Veritas was closed for an extensive renovation. The relaunch revealed a sophisticated-casual concept with a new menu, but maintained the same passion for great wine. Just months into the new identity, food critics came by and reestablished its credentials. It even got to keep its Michelin Star, a difficult task for casual restaurants.
To find out how much of the accolades were from the wine, a dinner was in order. Despite the newer casual concept, and relatively relaxed decor, wines unfortunately cannot get much cheaper. Here’s the dilemma: A restaurant built on great wines simply cannot move down market quickly with its wine. While the world might turn towards fresh, cheaper, local ingredients, we’ve yet to embrace our neighboring Long Island wineries.
Having perished the thought of blowing a paycheck on a bottle of Mr. Smith’s favorite Châteauneuf-du-Pape, my attention turned to food. The menu was very straight forward and simple. A page for appetizers, a page for entrees. Prices are very reasonable, with entrees mostly between $25-35.
Our appetizers stated off very well. The crab salad with lemon jam and arugula, plated within a crispy pastry skin, was a great contrast of flavors and textures. I wasn’t expecting olives, lemon and crab meat to play nice with each other, but the taste was quite harmonious. Well done.
Beef in transition was a playful way of serving 3 beef themed items on one plate. Without over thinking the concept behind this appetizers, I simply viewed it as a way to get 3 different flavors in one appetizer. A tasting menu of sorts. The beef tartare was fantastic, so were the sirloin slices. The wonton gave a neat plating alternative to what otherwise would’ve been a slop of braised meat, and it sure was tasty.
Sadly, the entrees were a let down. The striped bass was overcooked, and the roast chicken was overcooked to the point of being dry and slightly rough. I loved the potato pillows served with the chicken, and the seasoning and flavors were fine. That said, when dining out at a Michelin starred establishment, a piece of chicken like this is not acceptable. I’ve made better, and I’ve tasted much better.
On the way out, we were given some petite-fours, and two banana cupcakes for breakfast. The cupcakes were excellent, a wonderful way to start your day.
The new Veritas is a dilemma. I cannot afford the fine wines, and I was underwhelmed by the food. If you’re like me, then there are better alternatives. In fact, there are a few within the block.
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