Veritas is Columbus’s best restaurant. New, old—whatever.
This has been the consensus for years. Kihachi is part of the discussion, but cuisine-specificity often limits popular perception. Old guard classics like The Refectory and M at Miranova still do some things very well, but they are hamstrung by their own success.
But Veritas needs to be better.
If Josh Dalton is, as he said in last month’s Interview Issue, “shooting for the f*cking stars,” and if he wants to keep his crown—and certainly if he wants to give Columbus that bucket list restaurant that other cities (even outside of Chicago, LA, NYC, and DC) possess—then he needs to channel his inner Elon Musk and go all Falcon 9 on us.
First up, an amuse based on shrimp and grits. A shrimp cracker holding a dollop of grits and a little pipette of hot sauce arrived. You squeezed the sauce, ditched the device, and popped the cracker in. It was grand. I could have eaten 75 of them, and my fat Midwestern stomachbrain wanted me to. Truthfully (theme of the day) as palate-teasers go, I usually like something a bit brighter and more acidic. This is where I’d put my oft-used shrug emoji.
Then a pillow of airy, near-frothy whipped potatoes cradling a just-soft sous vide egg, showered in a ransom of black truffle. Hyper delicate, but still heartwarming.
After that, the two main courses rolled in. One, a halibut dish with brown butter and pistachio; the other a bit of filet with crispy onion and an A-1 play. The fish was, admittedly, a little overcooked, too dense even for halibut, which robbed it of some of its natural freshness and flavor. The filet (as beef courses often do) felt pedestrian next to some of the more thought-provoking courses that preceded it.
It was a good dinner. Not every course was transcendent. Two of them were. And as you can’t find transcendent dishes around every corner in Columbus, two out of nine ain’t bad.
A la carte
The chicharrónes towered on the plate, just as you’d expect them to. Dusted with a peri peri pepper powder and adorned with herbs and pickled red onions, they’d have been fine stopping there. What made them special was the accompaniment of a chilled seafood salad meant to act almost as a schmear. The coolness of the salad gave eating pork rinds a different feel. Cleaner, somehow.
Next, blistered shishitos. These are practically a fad—have been for some years now. They’re lovely on their own when you get them that way at, say, Harvest. These were drizzled lovingly (bordering on smothered) with a miso cream cheese, a ton of Parmigiano Reggiano, and “everything” topping, transforming it into a sort of Japanese-inspired elote experience.
Two little hush puppies arrived to follow. They were dark and perfectly spherical, not fluffy and misshapen—perfect little orbs with crackly shell exteriors sitting on a sour corn aioli. In the center of each was a core of cotija and white cheddar.
My main course was a crab gnocchi. The gnocchi was gnocchi. No wacky flavor, they were just perfectly textured and evaporated in my mouth. The crab was big and fresh and simple. Little hints of truffle laced the dish which played like the best chicken and dumplings I’d ever had. Dalton copped to favoring the dish himself.
The dessert rocked my shit. A wavy scrap of waffle cone sat atop a thick, nearly-dry and ultra thin layer of wow-that’s-bitter chocolate made (I believe) entirely out of coffee beans. Which I guess makes it…not chocolate? I don’t know. Tumbling down off the tuile was a frozen sunchoke mousse, crumbled gjetost (a sweet, caramel-y Norwegian cheese), and crushed macadamia nuts. It was everything I think a dessert should be: rich, not overly sweet.
The truth is that I found the a la carte dishes to be more satisfying than much of the tasting menu, and no less thoughtful or proficient in execution. Doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way. Just being honest.
Again, hooray for truth. And hooray for choices. Nobody, Dalton least of all, is saying that going to Veritas has to be some grand ordeal. And, with time, I believe Veritas will be better. Dalton is counting on it. Frankly, I suspect he’s a little pissed that this got written so soon after opening. Hopefully he won’t read it.