Next Week’s Restaurant Review: Velo in Nyack

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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.

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Deven Black and Jill Rovitzky Black
For The Journal News

There aren’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 Heather’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 don’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 — green pea and red pepper — 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 purée.

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.

There’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 crème 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, doesn’t guarantee quality, because we’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 — and the food can suffer as a result. The outrageously good pizza appetizer isn’t quite as appealing when it’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
845-353-7667

Cuisine
New American

Price
Entrees $20-$30

Hours
Dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Monday.

In brief
With food and service to match the chic décor, 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

The 411 on Velo.

Previous Small Bites coverage on Velo. Readers have already voted it 4 out of 5 stars.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

14 Comments

  1. My wife and I took our family there the end of June (8 of us) as we like trying new restaurants. I work for a food magazine and have had the good fortune of eating at many well know chef’s establishments. This new restaurant can easily rival ANY of the well known eateries I’ve been to. And this isn’t just my opinion, my family still can’t stop talking about the food. From appetizer to dessert, everything was outstanding. We actually found ourselves passing around each other’s dishes. Since then we have been back twice more and can’t wait to get there again.
    I made it a point of talking to the chef/owner and this young chef prides himself on the fact that everything that goes into his selections are made with the freshest and the very best ingredients…..and you don’t have to have an educated tongue to believe it. This new restauarnt is already one of the top restauarnts in Rockland County.
    Bravo Velo!

  2. Every time we are visiting family and friends in Rockland, we try to get to Velo. Every meal we have had has been excellent, as has the service. The atmosphere is welcoming, as well. We hope that Anthony and his wife enjoy the wedding and we look forward to dining with them again soon.

  3. I absolutely loved my dining experiences at Velo. I admire Anthony’s attention to detail in his food, as well as in the interior design of the restaurant. All of the meals are delicious and distinct in their own ways. This is the place to go in Nyack!

  4. You know what this county needs? Better hole in the wall eateries. I am tired of all the Go To Nyack for your Foo Foo over priced dinner. Go to Rest X for your over priced meal.
    I dont doubt these places are decent and good. But you know, when you have a family of 5. It isnt economical to go to a 25 dollar a plate restaurant. But then again I dont have the money half the people in rockland pretend to have..
    I love food, I look for new experiences. But unfortunately, all i ever see in the paper is nyack this and tarrytown that .. and then i look at the prices along with the quantity of food. *ugh*
    oh well..

  5. Kudos’ to Steve C. He hit the garlic right on the head
    Foo Foo/Ga Ga overpriced atmosphere seems to be the norm for “restaurants” in R C

    Manhattan Special is great, have been drinking it since was a “kid.”
    BUT serving it as a Foo Foo dessert give me a break.
    How difficult is it to buy a few bottles, twist off the cap, pour into a glass and add vanilla ice cream?
    thank you
    Jay Hirsch

  6. I totally agree with the review commentary at Velo that the service levels need to be more consistent. I was there for dinner twice. One night it took 10 minutes for the waiter to come to the table to take drink orders. The other night I was served a vodka on the rocks in a glass with lipstick stains on the rim… Attention to detail and consistency will be a constant challenge.

    I thought the food was excellent.

    Yes, it can be an expensive restaurant, but the market dictates what will succeed in Rockland County and what won’t.

    There are many inexpensive, family style restaurants to choose from if that is what you are looking for. The owner who took over the lease of this space chose to open something more high-end. Why should he open a family style inexpensive restaurant if that is not his dream? What stops someone with a different dream from negotiating for their own space. Maybe there are fewer people in Rockland who dream of opening a restaurant filled with families and children.

    If Velo’s prices are too high, and people think they are not getting their money worth, the owner will eventually have to make business model adjustments to stay profitable, like any other business owner does.

    Just my Opinion.

  7. Steve C., I just want to let you know that Jill and I also seek out hole-in-the-wall restaurants and are working on writing up a couple of recent discoveries (and I still have a couple more places I need to get to). If you ever notice a place that we should be looking into and haven’t yet, post it here and we’ll see it or Liz will send it on to us.

  8. Yes, it is easy to open a bottle of Manhattan Special and add some ice cream, but did you think to do it, Jay? Many, many things people order in restaurants can be easily made at home, but either people don’t think of doing it or would enjoy being served instead of preparing things themselves.

    No one is forcing you to order what you call “foo foo desserts,” but it would take a fool of a businessman not to sell them to people who want to buy them.

  9. Jay and Steve,
    I couldn’t disagree with you more. There are so many places to go to with a family. What is very needed are places to go WITHOUT the family and with friends or just one another. Each restaurant serves its own purpose. Velo’s purpose, like others, is not to entertain children (if that is what you were looking for). And truthfully, I am thankful for that!

    I also don’t consider the restaurant or the food “foo-foo” (not exactly a precise adjective in my opinion). In fact, it resembles restaurants in NYC. “Foo-foo” to me would be anything outdated, but I guess the word “foo-foo” is up for interpretation.

    I hope Velo does very well! I have family in the restaurant business, and I know the heart and passion that goes into running your own place. From my visits to Velo, I can feel that same kind of dedication from the chef/owner and his wife. Good luck!

  10. Lizzie — I agree wholeheartedly with you. There are $25 entree restaurants and there are $10-15 places, and you cannot criticize one solely for not being the other type.

    The case can be made that we need more reviews of the $10-15 type places in the paper. I can go along with that.

    PS if Steve thinks that Restaurant X is overpriced he clearly hasn’t seem some of the REALLY expensive places.

  11. We just got back from dinner at Velo and had a wonderful time. The hostess was approachable and friendly and our server Dan gave just the right amount of personal attention without overdoing it. He’s a keeper!

    I know there were many repeat visitors tonight as I heard several parties greeted by name by the staff. That’s a great sign for a restaurant that just opened recently.

    The food was very enjoyable, and it was all served piping hot. The goat cheese tart is as perfect as described in the review above. I can’t imagine patrons will ever let this dish come off the menu. The polenta with 3-cheese fondue was good while hot, better when cooled and slightly solidified. My duck breast on hand-mashed cauliflower had a phenomenal savory/slightly sweet sauce over it that tied everything together. It was a nice change from the overly sweet sauces most places dump on their duck. My guest loved her half chicken which had an attractive charred skin that ensured the meat was extremely juicy.

    My only dislike was dessert as I did not detect any of the yeasty goodness that homemade donuts should have. The texture wasn’t there- it had no pull. It was like eating sugar covered dough with dipping sauces. It just didn’t match the quality of the rest of the meal.

    Next time I will try the ricotta french toast instead. And there will be a next time. I think Nyack has another winner here. I know Velo will be around for a long time to come.

  12. I love this place! So happy that there is another great place in Rockland and that we won’t have to go into NYC to have some innovative food. Reminds me a bit of the also wonderful Adagio in Pearl River, another bistro/wine bar. They just updated and added some new delicious items to their menu!

  13. Hi.. I agree with several of you. Hole in the Walls are great esp when taking families and you don’t want to spend a fortune. And finding good ones can be tricky—My favorite is Bailey’s Smokehouse in Blauvelt, NY — great food, fun atmoshpere for kids and grownups alike. and great prices.

    But having a selection of quality restaurants in the area so we don’t have to travel to city is great. I wouldn’t call them Foo-Foo but Foodie restaurants. People who like to wine and dine where chefs “create” and food is prepare with freshest ingredients, etc. and present a dining experience.

    Also I agree there should be places where kids aren’t welcomed. Hey I LOVE kids.. got a couple myself… but certain restaurants are about the complexity of the food, the great wines, the adult atmosphere. Having children run around distrubing or crying etc sort of ruins the experience. When you’re spending $150 for a nice meal with your date, that’s the last thing you want. I wouldn’t buy my kids $30 plate dinners because they wouldn’t appreciate it and it’s strange when I see parents bring their kids to these kind of places.

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