We’ve been eager to return to Veritas ever since Gregory Pugin took over as executive chef in the middle of last year. Pugin had been executive sous-chef at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, and given our high opinion of that restaurant we figured that Veritas could only get better.
Mind you, we thought that Veritas was already a very good restaurant under the previous chef, Ed Cotton. Perhaps the food alone wasn’t quite worth three stars, but it was certainly good enough when the incomparable wine list was taken into account.
We heard even better reports of Chef Pugin’s cuisine, which unlike that of his predecessors just might be worthy of a visit on its own account. The Times completely ignored the transition. We do not recall a single mention of it, even in passing, by Frank Bruni—a sad but not altogether surprising omission, given his lack of enthusiasm for this style of dining.
For a couple of weeks in August 2009—traditionally a slow month for this kind of restaurant—Veritas was offering 25% off all wines, and this was the excuse for six members of the Mouthfuls food board to pay a visit.
Pugin, unlike his predecessors (Scott Bryan and Ed Cotton), brings a classic French sensibility to the menu. It’s still prix fixe ($85, as opposed to $82 when I last visited), but the dishes seem more formal and elegant than before.
I didn’t make a mental note of the amuse-bouche, but I’ve included a photo (above left). There were something like five or six choices of house-made breads, and I enjoyed both of those that I sampled.
I loved the rich flavor of the Lobster Nage (above left). Two of my companions had the Peekytoe Crab Mille-Feuille (above right), which one of them described as “a very nice presentation of two ‘slices’ with jicama forming the bottom layer and avocado the top.”
A Degustation of Lamb (above left) might well be called a Symphony of lamb, including the loin, the chop, and sweetbread, all perfectly prepared. Another of our party had the Skate Wing (above right), which he described as “superb.”
I was mightily pleased with the Grand Marnier Soufflé with crème anglaise (above left). Two others at the table had the Sparkling Grape Consommé (above right), of which one said, “I didn’t detect much sparkle, but it was as grapy as all getout.”
The petits-fours (right) weren’t as impressive as in some three-star restaurants, but they got the job done.
Obviously wines were to be a focal point of our evening, and with six in our party it was possible to try five of them. I won’t even attempt to describe them all, but fortunately another of our party has done so.
Service was mostly attentive, but the staff seemed slow to take our initial wine order, a curious omission at a restaurant focused on wine. The dining room was no more than half full, and our six-top was the largest party.
Veritas already had one of the city’s best wine lists. With the arrival of Gregory Pugin, it now serves the kind of food that such great wines deserve.
Veritas (43 E. 20th St. between Broadway & Park Avenue South, Flatiron District)