Note: This is a review under chef Ed Cotton. Click here for a review under the current chef, Sam Hazen.
Ten years ago, Park. B. Smith figured out that if he opened one bottle a day from his massive wine collection, it would take 119 years to drink it all. It was that scary thought that led him to open Veritas, the lovely 65-seat wine-themed restaurant in the Flatiron District.
Acclaim came quickly, with a three-star rating from Ruth Reichl in the Times, and much later a Michelin star. Veritas has hummed along quietly, less publicized than showier restaurants, but still doing a brisk business. In October, founding chef Scott Bryan left suddenly, “with no destination decided.” Ed Cotton, who was to have opened Bar Boulud for Daniel Boulud, replaced him.
As it was a decade ago, wine is the story at Veritas. Even then—when it was far less common—Veritas’ wine list was available online. It is divided into two sections, a smaller and less expensive “market list,” and the longer “reserve list.” The large volume is one of the heftiest in New York; you could get lost in it for hours. There are bottles under $60 and bottles over $10,000. We chose the 1998 Le Crau de ma Mère ($115) from the reserve list. It’s a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Park B. Smith’s favorite French wine.
While we were ordering, we couldn’t help overhearing the spectacle at the next table. An elderly solo diner was presented with his bill, $999, which had to have been mostly wine. And the bottle on his table, which must have cost $800, was still half full. The gentleman, clearly a Veritas regular, left without settling his bill (he was short of cash), telling the staff that he would be back for dinner the next evening. The wine he left over was, we are sure, shared and enjoyed by the restaurant staff.
The menu is $82 prix fixe, with tasting menus available at $110 (five-course) or $135 (seven-course). There are ten appetizers, eight entrées, and six desserts.
The amuse-bouche (above left) was house-cured salmon with a small vegetable medley. My girlfriend and I both started with the Wild Game Bolognese (above right) with butternut squash, wild chestnuts, and house-made cavatelli.
I enjoyed the Red Wine Braised Short-Ribs (above left), though they were slightly stringy. My girlfriend adored the Slow Baked Loch Duart Salmon (above right).
Finally, there was a terrific Banana Cream Tart (above left), while my girlfriend had the Chocolate Caramel Torte (above right).
Service was smooth, alert, friendly and professional. Our wine was, of course, decanted for us, a practice that too many fine restaurants have abandoned.
The cuisine at Veritas might be described as safe and traditional, but everything we tried was beautifully assembled, impeccably prepared, and just complex enough to be interesting.
The wine’s the show at Veritas, but it’s served in a serene setting, with food more than good enough to deserve admiration and praise.
Veritas (43 E. 20th St. between Broadway & Park Avenue South, Flatiron District)