It’s that time again folks, where I post next week’s restaurant review in hopes that you’ll comment on it. We’ll select a few comments to publish with the review in the paper next week. This week: Velo, the new (and much buzzed-about) restaurant in Nyack.
One note: This review has some unfortunate timing. Chef-owner Anthony DeVanzo and his wife are going to his sister’s wedding next weekend, so the restaurant will be closed Saturday 8/2 and Sunday 8/3. The restaurant will reopen Tuesday, 8/5.
And with that, here’s a photo of the goat cheese tartlet, which I loved and so did the Blacks, who have written this week’s review. Find it after the jump.
Deven Black and Jill Rovitzky Black
For The Journal News
There arenâ€™t many restaurants in Rockland County that truly excel, where every meal impresses and consistently hits the trifecta of high quality in food, service and general ambiance. Velo, while still in its early days, is showing great promise of reaching that mark.
Velo is in the space that was home to Heatherâ€™s Open Cucina in Nyack. Gussied up a bit with a mellow deep suntan coat of paint, chic black table linens and just enough bicycle art and memorabilia to establish a theme (Velo means bike in French) without tipping into kitsch territory, this wine bar and bistro draws a crowd not just at prime dining times, but even lateish on a weeknight.
And the numbers donâ€™t merely reflect novelty seekers checking out the newest spot in town before moving on. Count us among those who visited once and were compelled to return, either to get a second or third shot at a favored dish or to keep tasting a path through the menu, an appealing combination of bistro standards and creative combinations.
Take the salad of Boston lettuce, crowned with copious amounts of Maytag blue cheese and almonds. Or the goat cheese tart, in a homey, rustic-looking crust, finished with a honey-based glaze that emphasized the sweetness of the caramelized onions. Another noteworthy appetizer: impeccably fresh and well-executed tuna tartare.
Tuna was a standout among the entrees, too. Seared in a savory, sesame-enhanced crust, the tuna was paired with nicely al dente baby bok choy, an Asian-style nod to the sushi-esque quality of the fish. Fish and vegetables are served in the center of a colorful pair of coulis â€” green pea and red pepper â€” arranged yin-yang style on the plate, and finished with a flourish, squiggles on one occasion, a row of little dots on another.
Arctic char was another impressively tasty and attractive choice. The salmon-like filet, moist, flavorful and light beneath its crispy skin, sits atop a mound of beet-infused Israeli couscous. The rosy-tinted pearls looked at first glance like pomegranate seeds and glided across the tongue like caviar. Circling the couscous was a moat of buttery-tasting parsley purÃ©e.
Poultry and meat are more traditional but get equally expert treatment, especially the juicy roast half chicken on a bed of broccoli raab, and the steak frites, served with a garlicky browned butter sauce and lovely slender fries. Some of the pasta dishes, like mac and cheese and vegetarian lasagna, sounded dauntingly heavy for hot weather, but the gnocchi in a lamb Bolognese that we sampled were lighter than an evening breeze off the Hudson.
Thereâ€™s a playful spirit at work in the dessert menu. Consider the doughnut, a big, fresh, yeasty twist. Though we could discern no trace of the cardamom that was supposed to be flavoring it, we had a lot of fun tearing off doughy bits and dunking them in the accompanying berry compote and crÃ¨me anglaise. Another winner: the root beer float, reinvented with Manhattan Special. The intense bittersweet espresso soda and the rich vanilla ice cream make a simple but brilliant pair, a sophisticated version of a soda-fountain favorite.
Velo seems to be bucking the staffing trend across American workplaces, where ever-fewer people are expected to tackle a workload once shared by many. Such is not the case at Velo, where on one night we saw three waiters and a busboy, plus bartender and hostess, staffing the not-overly-large house.
Quantity, though, doesnâ€™t guarantee quality, because weâ€™ve seen inconsistencies in the level of service. On one visit the service was impeccable, attentive without being intrusive, on top of all details, and informative, especially about wine choices. On another visit, not so much â€” and the food can suffer as a result. The outrageously good pizza appetizer isnâ€™t quite as appealing when itâ€™s eaten closer to room than to just-out-of-the-oven temperature. Closer attention to detail is all that Velo needs to live up to its potential and climb into the top rung of local restaurants.
Velo Bistro & Wine Bar (Editors’ Pick)
12 N. Broadway, Nyack
Dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Monday.
With food and service to match the chic dÃ©cor, this wine bar-bistro draws a crowd, not just at prime dining times, but even late on a weeknight. They come for excellent renditions of French and Italian bistro standards (chianti risotto with black truffle, goat cheese tarlet with honey and thyme) as well as an excellent, value-laden wine list.
What we liked
Goat cheese tart, tuna tartare, pizza, steak frites, roast chicken, gnocchi in a lamb Bolognese, Manhattan Special float
Previous Small Bites coverage on Velo. Readers have already voted it 4 out of 5 stars.