From the moment you walk into Veil - a newly opened (and much-anticipated) restaurant located on the corner of Taylor and Aloha, a pocket of Queen Anne undergoing steady renovations and construction - you know you're in a potential hotspot.
The interior of the restaurant is almost entirely white: from the walls, to the furniture, to the sheer drapes that cover the windows and compartmentalize spaces throughout. The bar has a sheen of cool, with private booths and small, white leather stools on either side of a long, communal table that runs down its middle. The minimalist dining room, which might have felt overly spare, is somehow inviting and warm, with a noise level that's kept mercifully low - a quality that too many new restaurants are neglecting. Then there's the menu, replete with the trendiest ingredients and prices confirming that this is not your mother's Queen Anne. With entrees from $23 to $29, the real question is whether the food measures up to all of the trappings. The answer is: yes.
Veil's menu is sectioned into "introduction" (appetizers), "main" and "tasting" - a four-course option for $60. Each dish is artfully assembled and presented on various sizes and shapes of white plates. We started with Kobe beef cheeks ($11), which were braised to a sweet tenderness, although some thought them a bit hearty for an appetizer. But all agreed that the goat cheese salad ($8), while a ubiquitous menu item, was the best we'd ever had: a visually stunning presentation of meltingly soft lettuces over a mild, lovely cheese, with chunks of filberts and pickled grapes. The citrus-cured salmon, on the other hand, while a beautiful piece of fish, was so tart that it seemed either over-citrused or over-cured. Among other appetizers is "the fois gras" ($19), with peanut butter and jelly and toast: interesting, but not at that price.
"Main" dishes include a beautifully plated and perfectly cooked Oregon Country lamb, sliced and layered over dried vine tomatoes, al dente celery root and lamb jus ($29); roasted duck ($26), also cooked to perfection, with little red onions, roots and a vegetable demi-glace; and seared tuna ($27), so fresh it almost dissolved in my mouth, served with pasta over a mild pesto and topped with a poached egg - an unexpected but delightful combination of taste and texture. Veil's wine list is extensive, with an average price of around $40. Our server suggested a mid-range bottle of Spanish red that complemented each dish.
The bar proper - although almost immediately adjacent to the dining room - is definitely a separate space, intended not just for restaurant-goers but as its own destination. There are a number of specialty cocktails, which were pretty high on frou-frou, and an interesting selection of wine by the glass that was good in both price and quality. The menu includes many of the restaurant's appetizers, although my favorite was the bar-only, delicious mini lamb burgers (3 for $11), nicely flavored with Mid-Eastern spices and a slice of feta.
The Veil owners - Chef Shannon Galusha (formerly of 727 Pine by way of French Laundry) and Erik Lindstrom - have succeeded in creating a space (both restaurant and bar) with an elegantly hip vibe that feels as though it belongs in New York or San Francisco. It will certainly be embraced by those in the know - if they can find it and are willing to make the trek to this corner of Seattle. For those of us on Queen Anne, it's wonderful to welcome a new restaurant with a menu that takes chances, beautifully prepared food and an atmosphere to remind us that we are, in fact, city-dwellers.
555 Aloha St.; 216-0600; restaurant, 5-10 p.m.; lounge 5 p.m.-2 a.m.; closed Monday