Musings from a Seattle personal chef
A couple of my foodie friends (S and K) and I have vowed to get together every other month to check out the local restaurant scene. We aim for places none of us has gone to before; rarely an issue for me, but as they’re more inclined to dine out, it may take several suggestions before we settle on one.
Last week I rattled off several names to K, only to be shot down each time (“Been there. Yep, been there too. Went there last week.” etc.). Finally I came up with Veil; although she’s gone there as well, it was only for drinks, and S had yet to try it. Success! An added bonus: it was geographically desirable for all of us; very important given Seattle was just coming out of the throes of an ice storm.
K and I carpooled and found S in the lounge chatting with the chef and the bartender. The place was deserted — most likely due to the weather — so they wanted to make sure S was comfortable. Quite a nice touch, I thought.
Located in a brick building on the lower eastern slope of Queen Anne, Veil’s exterior belies the trendiness within. With its white-on-white-on-white leather interior bathed in a rosy pink glow, it is decidedly non-Northwest. Although I’m sure the employees would have appreciated more customers, we were thrilled to have the place to ourselves for most of the evening. I likely would have felt out of place had the regular hipster crowd been present.
S was enjoying a rosemary Bellini when we arrived, so we decided to start our evening off in the lounge with some appetizers. I’m on the wagon for the month of January (partook in WAY too many holiday indulgences), but I was delighted to see they offer Dry Soda. I ordered the kumquat flavor, which they served in the requisite champagne glass.
First up were the mini lamb burgers topped with feta cheese and a Moroccan sauce. They were delicious, although I would have preferred them a little more rare. S and K, however, liked them just the way they were (both favor their meat cooked medium to medium-well). We followed those with the cheese plate, which included a small wedge each of bleu, goat, sharp cheddar and sheep’s milk cheeses. These were served with toasted hazelnuts, apricot puree and two kinds of bread (plain and Kalamata olive). The sweetness of the puree paired especially well with the pungency of the bleu cheese (and even worked well with the olive bread!).
The dinner menu listed on Veil’s website is a sample menu, so I was a tad disappointed to see they weren’t offering the crispy veal sweetbreads that evening (I’ve only had sweetbreads once, and that was years ago). Because the rest of the starter options were items I could easily prepare myself, I decided to leave room for dessert instead. I toyed with ordering the seared Hudson Valley foie gras, but since I have a lobe waiting in my freezer — which I’ll be preparing for a group of personal chef friends — I nixed the idea. Besides, at $29 it was much more than I cared to spend on an appetizer. S, however, was eyeing the butternut squash soup, and with a hearty endorsement from our server, she caved.
I absolutely loved the presentation: an oversized bowl arrives with a mound of “hash” of crisp bacon, baby Brussels sprouts and avocado. The server then pours the soup from a pitcher around the hash so as not to disturb it. And oh, what an incredible mix of flavors and textures: the crisp saltiness of the bacon, the slight bitterness of the Brussels sprouts, the butteriness of the avocado and the luxurious sweetness of the butternut squash puree. Pure heaven.
For our entrees, I chose the Atlantic monkfish (the “poor man’s lobster”), S opted for the roasted black cod and K went for the duck. S found her black cod just a tad fishy tasting when she took a bite of it on its own, but felt the flavor improved when she paired it with the cider vinegar and horseradish sauce (I did not discern any fishiness, but it did have a much stronger flavor than my monkfish). K was glad she ordered her duck medium-well (much to my chagrin) as it arrived still somewhat pink. It was paired with beautifully roasted cipolline onions, toasted farro (an Italian grain with a chewy texture similar to wheat berries) and a slightly sweet sauce (I forgot to take note of what it was; mea culpa).
For once I felt I picked the best dish (although I thought all were quite good). The monkfish was perfectly roasted — crisp and golden outside, moist and flaky within. It was served atop new potato and foie gras chowder with a sprinkling of celery leaf salad. It was an incredibly rich dish, but the portion size was right on. My only issue was the fact the foie gras was indiscernible save for a few brown flecks.
And for dessert? Warmed banana and nutella crêpe for K, malted chocolate crème brûlée for S and “Big Island” coconut sorbet for me — another clear winner. My friends thought the banana flavor over-powered the crêpe (it’s filled with a banana and paired with banana ice cream), but as a banana lover I enjoyed it. The texture of S’s crème brûlée was more along the lines of a pudding rather than a custard (she would have preferred the latter), but the flavor was wonderful. Again, my choice was the group favorite. The sorbet was served alongside a slice of vanilla roasted pineapple on top of large-pearled coconut tapioca. Light and refreshing, it was the perfect complement to my hearty entree.
Overall, I give Veil a thumbs-up recommendation. Prepare to spend a bit though; even without alcoholic beverages my meal came to $60 with tax and tip. Parking was plentiful on the street, however, we came on a stormy Tuesday evening (the parking situation might be worse on a busy Friday or Saturday evening).
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