Veil Unveiled

The latest upscale single-syllable eatery opens at last.

It's a rare new restaurant that opens on schedule, but Shannon Galusha's Veil may have set a record for delays: Press releases, complete with formatted menus and prices, announced an April opening. Given Galusha's penchant for fresh, seasonal ingredients, the bill of fare at the actual grand opening six months later did not much resemble the one announced for spring. But that apart, Veil is just what Galusha and his partner, Erik Lindstrom, promised: aggressively chic, with a highly stylized, limited menu (a constantly changing six or seven each of appetizer, main dish, and dessert, not to mention signature cocktails). It's the kind of postmodern concept that could easily come off as self-conscious, supercilious, and chichi, but Galusha's kitchen skills keep the focus on the food, not the ahmbiehngce. About those cocktails. They are clearly meant to be at the cutting edge of potable fashion, but they are less appropriate as premeal pick-me-ups than as liquid desserts. The Veil mixes orange Stoli with peach and black currant; the Devil's Bouquet spoils high-end Hendricks gin with peach brandy and herb-tea flavors; others lay on the chocolate schnapps, Irish Cream, Grand Marnier, and ginger ale (all are $9). I told my server I preferred something on the dry side; she tentatively suggested the Très Herbisante. I should have taken her tone as a warning: Bombay gin with too much Chartreuse and not enough orange bitters made a beverage cloying from the first sip. (My companion, absolved of professional adventurousness, chose a dry Hendricks martini, damn her.) The bar is severely decorated with stern benches, taupe walls, and stainless tables, but the dining room is cozier. The restaurant takes its name from real veils: semi-sheer hangings of a raw-muslin taupe tone, which break up the dining room (not large in the first place) into intimate nooklets. The dish descriptions are telegraphic and irritatingly allusive, set all in lower-case type so you can't tell if "trampetti oil" is oil squeezed from trampetti or produced by someone named Trampetti (the latter, it turns out). The "caviar" and "lobster" in one appetizer (no longer on the menu) turn out to be caviar lentils and lobster mushrooms. Be sure to ask your server if what you see is what you'll get. My Kobe beef cheeks with red-onion cream and tomato confit ($11) were a few glorious dabs of intense flavor, well worth the $11 price tag. (Anybody who orders the "foie gras," $19, with peanut butter, jelly, and toast, deserves what they get.) Striped bass with oxtail ragú ($27) sounds odd; it isn't. The meaty bass is only enhanced by the meat juices, and the plain thymed potatoes on the side are the perfect complement. Roasted drake duck ($26) avoids the common temptation to pour on the sugar; its side is piquant baby onions and winter vegetables and its sauce a vegetable-stock reduction. The only "rich" dish on the bill of fare the night we dined was mascarpone-laced risotto ($23), but that should suit those who want a little goo on their plate. The wine list, about 40 items strong, is well balanced and diverse, though definitely on the pricey side; the average bottle of red runs about $40, whites about $35. But 20 wines by the glass offers all the selection the menu demands for about $8 a pop. Food portions are modest enough that you may be more inclined than usual to have dessert (known here as "conclusions"). Like the bar offerings, they run to childlike sugar overkill: salted peanut butter ice cream ($8), apple terrine with caramel and cinnamon ice cream ($7), roasted pineapple in passion-fruit soup with coconut sorbet ($8). Anybody who needs Banyuls ($9), vin santo ($10), or sauternes ($10) to wash them down is cruising for the diabetes ward. With a cocktail, three courses, and wine, it's easy to spend $100 a person at Veil. If you have what it takes in the wallet department, you'll almost certainly enjoy your visit. As you linger over your Caffé Vita macchiato ($4), amuse yourselves by trying to guess what the next trendy one-syllable Lower Queen Anne restaurant might be named. Squeeze? Bark? Thump? The possibilities are endless. Veil, 555 Aloha St. (at Taylor Avenue), 206- 216-0600,, UPTOWN. Dinner 5–10 p.m. Tues.–Sun.; bar open until 2 a.m.

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