Playful-yet-sophisticated small plates informed by modernist cooking techniques help make this one of the best restaurants in town
In Latin, “veritas” is “truth.” In Columbus, Veritas is a new restaurant that should be on the must-visit list of anyone reading this.
Because here's the truth: With its playful-yet-sophisticated dishes, stellar cocktails, chic wine and beer selections, plus uncommonly knowledgeable servers, Veritas is an elite local eatery.
You might not immediately pick up on this from the fashionably casual and sometimes loud space Veritas has occupied since late December, when it opened Downtown after relocating from Delaware. Except for a large kitchen visible through glass, the predominantly gray-and-wood, mid-century modern interior with decorative shelves bearing tableware recalls a swanky lounge in a five-star hotel.
But as soon as you sit down on one of the unusual chairs — try leaning way back to get comfortable — and open a menu that resembles a wedding-invitation envelope, you'll know Veritas isn't like any other place in town. This is an admirable, daring quality.
Sometimes, though, ambitious bells and whistles can seem a little noisy. But even when Veritas' chefs appear eager to impress customers with interesting if questionable flourishes, their skill and creativity remain beyond question. Relatedly, I barely mind that Kierkegaard is cited on an extensive wine list claiming it isn't trying to be “cool,” and I was happy to see the cocktails no longer have Latin names.
More happiness came from sipping those beverages ($12 to $13). Running the gamut from refined punch-style concoctions that tickle palates with citrus and bitterness (Cape Horn Collins) to a smoky, complex adult lemonade (Todo Bien) to a drink that evoked a Polynesian-influenced fruit tea (Tea-ki Time) to a refashioned austere classic (Provencal Fashioned), they're unsurpassed in Columbus.
Several dishes on the small menu of small plates with generally small portions similarly update and upgrade old favorites. (An $85, eight-course tasting menu is also available.) These include smooth-textured, surprisingly elegant hush puppies ($6) with a scene-stealing bacon-ramp aioli, and the new local kings of chicken wings ($12), which offset their duck fat-bath with multiple vinegars and hot sauce, and are plated with transparent celery ribbons plus a foamy cloud of blue-cheese dip.
Speaking of clouds, the gnocchi ($18), which arrive in an extremely rich-and-creamy sauce with sweet crab meat, practically disintegrate on contact with your mouth. The beautiful and delicious mushroom toast ($11) — smoky grilled sourdough with firm fancy fungi, house-made ricotta, microgreens, edible flowers, balsamic gastrique and anise notes — conjures something encountered in an enchanted forest.
A large serving of charred shishito peppers ($9) with multi-flavored sprinkles plus Parmesan and house “miso-ricotta” cheese is a whimsical, tangy, umami-forward and low-carb riff on an everything bagel with spicy cream cheese.
Lovely pea tendrils and a virtual snowfall of Parmesan cap sweet and buttery, sous-vide-cooked “meaty” Brussels sprouts with a curry spice mixture that together reminded me of Vietnamese-style beef stew.
A sous-vide-cooked egg, a minuscule biscuit, plus crisp candied bacon crown the ridiculously rich if irresistible bacon risotto ($13). Submerged, strand-forming white cheddar makes this over-the-top breakfast-for-dinner dish what Italians call a “risotto al telefono.”
If the Thai curry-style beef-shoulder filet ($18) with multiple carrot preparations has an obtrusive component made with puffed farro that hints at caramel corn, and the grilled local asparagus dish with handmade pasta has concentrated lemon accents that clash with its creamy burrata, both plates are still beautiful and compelling, and I'd gladly order them again. In fact, the only dish I'd shy away from is the dry-aged duck — a scant few slices of alluringly intensified, crisp-skinned, medium-well meat with pretty pickled beets, plus a gratuitous coffee-pistachio-butter ribbon that didn't add up to $30 in my book.
Mostly, though, the prices are right for Veritas' labor-intensive, disarmingly clever and “only here” dishes — this includes crowd-wowing desserts such as the “chocolate” ($7) and “banana” ($7).