by Megan Leigh Barnard

The Truth About Veritas

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. Analogously, Springsteen may be writing new shit, but people get pissed when he doesn’t play the hits, you know?

That said, the gap has narrowed. There are better dining options here now than there were five years ago when Veritas first opened in Delaware. Actual restaurants, too—not slickly-marketed, t-shirt slinging shtick shacks that do one thing kind of well. I’m talking about chef-driven, non-chain, real deal restaurants. Cosecha, Rockmill, Service Bar, South Village Grille, Watershed. There’s a partial list. What that means is…

Veritas needs to be better.

Whoa daddy. Fingers got a little twitchy there. Maybe this is why you don’t see a lot of shit-talking in this milquetoast town. Feels kinda gross. But we’re going for the whole truth, so here come the punches.

Even before making the extremely ambitious (and necessary) move to Gay Street, the aforementioned space between Veritas and the local field had been closing—closing in large part because of Veritas, but closing nonetheless.

Where a few years ago I hadn’t been wowed by other restaurants the way I had been by Dalton’s, there are absolutely things being done around town that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the food at Veritas. The charred octopus at Cosecha, the crispy short ribs and oxtail gnocchi at Service Bar. Watershed put corned sweetbreads on people’s radars. South Village elevated calamari considerably without getting too cutesy (though maybe back off on the saucing a bit, guys). These are important motions forward.

So if  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.

In that same interview, we discussed the notion that Columbus may not be entirely ready to appreciate, or even properly justify, the $85-per-diner-before-pairings, eight-course tasting menu experience that Veritas (and pretty much Veritas alone in Columbus) can provide. As of this moment, I’m certain of it.

They do have an a la carte menu, of course, and it’s every bit as good. Better in some ways, actually.

Fortunately, I’ve had both.

I’ve been in twice since opening: once as a paying customer, and again as a known writer on assignment.

The tasting menu began with 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.

Next, a pretzel roll. Braided and sweet like Hawaiian bread, it was warm and texturally pleasing and came with a side of coarse grain mustard. I hoped for more than just mustard. And there was too much of it.

The two courses that followed were utterly fantastic.

Course three: 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.

Course four (a surprise bonus course): house-made bucatini with buttered shallot, toasted peppercorn, and fennel. It felt like cacio e pepe, the oft-adored no-frills Italian classic, set off just enough to fit the context.

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. Still, if you pay more than 50 bucks for dinner and you don’t get a piece of steak at some point, I imagine you’d be a little pissed. You’re probably also an asshole. Hooray for truth!

The final three were dessert courses, the last a one-biter billed as “Golden Milk”—a thin, sweet shell filled with a subtly flavored concoction of coconut and turmeric and other spices.

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.

I was proper full by the end of it, even if each course (by design) left me wanting more of it, the bucatini especially. There won’t ever be anything to take home, though, and I’m forced to wonder yet again whether the tasting menu will catch on with locals as anything other than a novelty, sprung for on special occasions alone.

For the a la carte experience, I was treated to five dishes.

The first three of the five are familiar offerings. Dalton even admitted that part of the motivation behind these was to prove that he could do what others in town were doing and do it better. He can, and he did.

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. More elegant. And certainly tastier.

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. The bunching, glomming Reggiano was, as advertised, like crack for my brain.

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. They had a different texture than others of their kind. More substantial. I was happy to have just a couple, or I’d have filled up too fast.

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.

This time, the dessert rocked my shit. A wavy scrap of waffle cone sat atop a thick, nearly-dry and ultrathin 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, combining different textures and temperatures, and assembling into perfect composed bites. Truly one of my favorites.

People who have been to Veritas before know of the spiced Brussels, the bacon risotto. And there’s more that the a la carte menu has to offer. This is precisely where I would recommend diners new to the restaurant start out. Ease your way in. Belly up to the bar, choose what you like, and appreciate the skill behind the glass on your own terms before splaying yourself out on the altar. You won’t be disappointed.

If you’ve noticed, I have almost nothing negative to say about my a la carte experience. Maybe the comparative abundance of food affected my mood. Maybe I was high on glutamate. Maybe I am the embodiment of the consumer so many restaurants envision: a binge-eating simpleton who just wants to feel warm, fat, and happy and be rolled out of the restaurant and into bed. 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. Hopefully I’ll get to do it all again a year from now.

But that’s the way it works at the top. Veritas is rooted in the idea of forging ahead. Pushing the envelope. Proving themselves.

Good thing, too. Because in order to remain the best, I’ll say it again—Veritas needs to keep getting better.

Whoa daddy. Fingers got a little twitchy there. Maybe this is why you don’t see a lot of shit-talking in this milquetoast town. Feels kinda gross. But we’re going for the whole truth, so here come the punches.

Even before making the extremely ambitious (and necessary) move to Gay Street, the aforementioned space between Veritas and the local field had been closing—closing in large part because of Veritas, but closing nonetheless.

Where a few years ago I hadn’t been wowed by other restaurants the way I had been by Dalton’s, there are absolutely things being done around town that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the food at Veritas. The charred octopus at Cosecha, the crispy short ribs and oxtail gnocchi at Service Bar. Watershed put corned sweetbreads on people’s radars. South Village elevated calamari considerably without getting too cutesy (though maybe back off on the saucing a bit, guys). These are important motions forward.

So if  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.

In that same interview, we discussed the notion that Columbus may not be entirely ready to appreciate, or even properly justify, the $85-per-diner-before-pairings, eight-course tasting menu experience that Veritas (and pretty much Veritas alone in Columbus) can provide. As of this moment, I’m certain of it.

They do have an a la carte menu, of course, and it’s every bit as good. Better in some ways, actually.

Fortunately, I’ve had both.

I’ve been in twice since opening: once as a paying customer, and again as a known writer on assignment.

The tasting menu began with 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.

Next, a pretzel roll. Braided and sweet like Hawaiian bread, it was warm and texturally pleasing and came with a side of coarse grain mustard. I hoped for more than just mustard. And there was too much of it.

The two courses that followed were utterly fantastic.

Course three: 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.

Course four (a surprise bonus course): house-made bucatini with buttered shallot, toasted peppercorn, and fennel. It felt like cacio e pepe, the oft-adored no-frills Italian classic, set off just enough to fit the context.

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. Still, if you pay more than 50 bucks for dinner and you don’t get a piece of steak at some point, I imagine you’d be a little pissed. You’re probably also an asshole. Hooray for truth!

The final three were dessert courses, the last a one-biter billed as “Golden Milk”—a thin, sweet shell filled with a subtly flavored concoction of coconut and turmeric and other spices.

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.

I was proper full by the end of it, even if each course (by design) left me wanting more of it, the bucatini especially. There won’t ever be anything to take home, though, and I’m forced to wonder yet again whether the tasting menu will catch on with locals as anything other than a novelty, sprung for on special occasions alone.

For the a la carte experience, I was treated to five dishes.

The first three of the five are familiar offerings. Dalton even admitted that part of the motivation behind these was to prove that he could do what others in town were doing and do it better. He can, and he did.

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. More elegant. And certainly tastier.

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. The bunching, glomming Reggiano was, as advertised, like crack for my brain.

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. They had a different texture than others of their kind. More substantial. I was happy to have just a couple, or I’d have filled up too fast.

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.

This time, the dessert rocked my shit. A wavy scrap of waffle cone sat atop a thick, nearly-dry and ultrathin 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, combining different textures and temperatures, and assembling into perfect composed bites. Truly one of my favorites.

People who have been to Veritas before know of the spiced Brussels, the bacon risotto. And there’s more that the a la carte menu has to offer. This is precisely where I would recommend diners new to the restaurant start out. Ease your way in. Belly up to the bar, choose what you like, and appreciate the skill behind the glass on your own terms before splaying yourself out on the altar. You won’t be disappointed.

If you’ve noticed, I have almost nothing negative to say about my a la carte experience. Maybe the comparative abundance of food affected my mood. Maybe I was high on glutamate. Maybe I am the embodiment of the consumer so many restaurants envision: a binge-eating simpleton who just wants to feel warm, fat, and happy and be rolled out of the restaurant and into bed. 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. Hopefully I’ll get to do it all again a year from now.

But that’s the way it works at the top. Veritas is rooted in the idea of forging ahead. Pushing the envelope. Proving themselves.

Good thing, too. Because in order to remain the best, I’ll say it again—Veritas needs to keep getting better.

Veritas is located at 11 W Gay St. For more, visit veritasrestaurant.com.

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