“VDAY 2010 Veritas Review” by MDC

Veritas Review**

Last week my lovely fiancée Simone and I celebrated our 7th Valentines Day together. Well in advance I searched for a reservation to mark this special event, hoping to secure a great table in a fine NYC establishment. Open Table is where I book 95% of my restaurant real estate, so I naturally decided to go there first. I used their many tabs and organizational break down criteria, which put restaurants into categories like “most romantic”,  “most booked” or “Michelin star rated”. The later label sounded like the best option for me to use to help me choose the best place for our landmark evening.

Realizing the magnitude of the accomplishments and dedication to their craft that chef’s awarded with Michelin stars I knew that any mention of it would almost guarantee us a stellar experience. While scrolling the impressive list of high-end culinary temples here in the big apple, I remembered a chef from one episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations TV show on The Travel Channel. Tony goes out to dine at chef Gabriella Hamilton’s Prune late night with very famous superstar chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin (3 Michelin Stars) and lesser-known chef Gregory Pugin of Veritas (1 Michelin Star).  Almost at the bottom of the alphabetically arranged list Veritas was moved to the top of mine and I clicked the Saturday 6 pm spot for dinner with my baby.

Having visited many Michelin starred restaurants in the past I had high expectations for our experience at Veritas. Since I knew that they offered an $85 seasonal pre-fixe menu put together by chef Pugin with accompanying wine pairings for $80, I figured that we were in for a treat. Upon arrival in to the quaint Gramercy/Flatiron space we were greeted with a smile and promptly seated at the finest table for two we’ve had since I proposed last year at Bouley. This giant round booth was large enough for six and was nestled in the quiet back corner of the restaurant, overlooking the tiny 40-seat dining room. No doubt this is an easy operation to control from the service standpoint, which is a definite requirement to make the experience Michelin star worthy. From our vantage point we noticed the restaurant was showing its age a bit, as the ceiling was dingy and the décor was faded from over use. It wasn’t off putting, but we felt that they could benefit from a fresh coat of paint and a revamp of the fixtures, shedding that dated early 90’s cover up. We also felt that they had a problem with the server side station placement. With no curtain everything was totally visible to our table and exposed too much of what we consider “behind the scenes” details.

After the very professional waiter took our order, we knew the fun was just about to begin. Leading off was the amuse, an impressive carrot soup with a decadent bacon cream, oddly reminded me of the delicious and familiar way that a corndog from Hotdog On A Stick used to taste when I was a young boy. Wow! For our first course, I had the sinfully rich lobster nage with butter poached Maine lobster and Simone had the terrine of foie gras with toasted brioche. I was definitely pleased with my dish, but the foie was somewhat under whelming and didn’t offer anything to set it apart from any other terrine on any other Manhattan restaurant menu. Next came the main dish, which for me was Wagyu beef filet basted in butter and cooked to perfection accompanied by seasonal veggies. This dish was fantastic and made my palate dance, while Simone’s Iberico Ham crusted halibut filet fell short on the flavor and frankly looked and tasted dull. Final verdict: Meat = Good, but Fish = Disappointing. After we were cleared, the dessert list came. There were way too many tropically influenced options, so we opted for the cheese plate instead. For an extra $6 supplement, (I feel like “supplements” are ridiculous and perceived as pretentious by the guest on an already overpriced pre-pixe menu. There shouldn’t be any reason to charge extra for items that are already going to be paid for in the original price of the meal.) we enjoyed one nicely portioned plate of four locally produced cheeses, which ended up being the perfect ending for our meal.

I thought that I would talk about the wine pairings after the food run down, especially since the service and the selection were less than special. First of all, the pubescent looking sommelier showed her lack of experience when she didn’t speak to us about the first offering that she poured (or much at all through out the dinner). It was a sparkling rosé with a nice pink label, but it could have been Martinelli’s sparkling cider for all we knew. Second, the wine pairing is designed to compliment each dish in a specific way. However, we were both served the same wine to go with our very different main dishes. The 1993 Bonny Doon Pinot Noir worked well with my beef but not at all with Simone’s fish. Third, the offerings seemed like wines that were not selling well or were things that they needed to get rid of so they served them as wine pairings. Maybe I’m way off, but it was $80 each and I feel like they just didn’t care about impressing anyone who ordered the wine pairing that night.

Overall the experience was good, but there is really no reason to return. The weird thing is that Simone and I must be experiencing some sort of “fine dining fatigue”, which makes what should have been 1 Michelin Star rated dinner feel like a 1 Star NY Times meal. What I mean is that we’ve seen it all before and the staff at Veritas didn’t seem like they were in to providing anything to make the experience memorable. Oh well, we’ll keep going out and they will keep missing out on our business!

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