Viridian: First Impressions

Finally made it down to Viridian on Monday night for dinner, and the place seems to be settling in nicely. The white, minimalist dining room was nearly full with a crowd that included George Stephanopoulos and his wife, which made sense when I remembered reading years back that Rupperts was his favorite restaurant. (Siblings Sidra and Kenan Forman, now Viridian consulting chef and sommelier, respectively, came from Rupperts. Read more about the connection in Tom Sietsema's Weekly Dish.)

The menu, unless you are ordering meat or cheese specifically, is all vegan, meaning no butter hidden in any preparations. (I have to admit this gave me pause, and for just a second I thought, "How dumb." Then I realized how many other places I could go to load up on butter and decided not to be so judgmental.) Our waitress also mentioned that the breads and desserts are all wheat-free, why I don't know, unless that many people are allergic or have decided wheat isn't healthy. (Note: This wheat-free information may have been incorrect.)

Ultimately, none of this got in the way of us enjoying the meal. In fact, our waitress had to keep bringing us more wheat-less bread we were enjoying it so much. I asked what kind of flour the bread was made with, but things got busy and she forgot to find out for me. (Maybe because she was mistaken?) The bread first came with a creamy pumpkin spread and gaeta olive tapenade, both very good. The second round, our waitress kindly subbed in a dish of carmelized onions. Butter? Who needs butter?

Our meal started with a gift from the kitchen: housemade kimchee, which had a nice bite, with two sets of chopsticks. We ordered the cauliflower soup—rich and piping hot, and I'll be back for more—and the beet and horseradish salad. Unfortunately, my beets needed a little more cooking—they were very al dente. But the curl of freshly grated horseradish was a nice touch.

Moving on, we had the half chicken, with a side of roasted potatoes tossed in a housemade mustard, and rockfish, with a side of the brussels sprouts with pickled ginger. The chicken was fine, the potatoes better, and the brussel sprouts the surprise favorite. The ginger is pickled in-house and brings out a whole new side of the oft-maligned sprouts. The rockfish was perfectly cooked with a nice, crisp skin and a simple piece of fennel, but the broth it came in was a little bland.

My dining companion was getting fidgety by then, so no time for dessert, but I'd like to see what the carrot cake with coconut sorbet and chocolate cake (wheat-free remember?) are like. But to satisfy my nagging need for something sweet to feel a meal is complete, out came two pieces of pumpkin seed brittle with the check.

The service was amazingly smooth for such a new spot and the servers extremely friendly. And I didn't even feel deprived not having consumed two sticks of butter like in a typical restaurant meal...

Welcome to the neighborhood, Viridian.