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.


Amanda said...

Here's a comment from a reader from an earlier post that I thought belonged here too:
Anonymous said...

So I went to the soft opening and, as promised, here is what I have to say about Veridian:

SPACE – the venue is, as it appears from the street, quite nice: it is simple and modern, yet warm (oddly and as an aside, they had as a centerpiece they had a bowl of potatoes, but it seemed to work). Unlike some of the predictions blogged by others, it is not a very noisy space, as we were able to enjoy a conversation at our table undisturbed. The bar area looks like it would be a fun place at which to wait for a table or to grab a drink awaiting a show at the Studio Theater. My only complaint (not to be annoying) is that the bathrooms are somewhat hard to find and take you away from the ambience of the rest of the space by leading you through a fire door and down a fluorescent lit hallway.

FOOD – the food was ok but not great. The menu is simple and offers interesting side dishes, salads, and starters, but none of it really popped with flavor or seemed to compliment the other menu items. It seems that there is somewhat of an identity crisis in what Veridian seeks to be, as some items were quite simple while others were pretty aggressive.

SERVICE – Hopefully it will improve (and the purpose of a soft opening is to work out the kinks), but I have to mention that the service was poor. Our soups and salads came out after our entrees. We were missing several side dishes that we’d ordered. Plates were removed before people from our party were finished. And so on.

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know - there are a lot of people with a wheat allergy. I know from friends who have it how hard it is to go out to eat. Props to Viridian!

Anonymous said...

I ate there recently as well an for the most part enjoyed it but frankly, the neighborhood is becoming very mainstream, I'm not too sure the Vegan thing will last. It just seems rather silly with meat on the menu and all. I think it will eventually become an upscale Logan Tavern, aside from the atmosphere there is really nothing outstanding about it. All in all though a nice addition.

sam said...

I went last night and thought that it was absolutely great. Maybe the desserts would have been more to my taste with a little butter, but still very good. Rockfish fantastic, side order of spicy bok choi even better, and al dente beets were just to my taste anyway

Just to note, though, that we asked about the "no wheat" thing and the exec chef said that wasn't right -- so, all you Celiac folks out there, be sure to ask for the true scoop before munching the bread.

Amanda said...

Thanks for the report. I wondered why I hadn't heard the wheat-free thing anywhere else. Maybe our waitress was overinterpreting the mission... ; )