Vee Vee

Style and substance, hold the meat
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  April 2, 2008
4.0 4.0 Stars
CRW_9339inside
“VEE” IS FOR VERY GOOD Shrimp and scallop cakes put their crab brethren to shame.

Vee Vee | 763 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain | Open Tues–Sun, 5:30–10 pm
AE, MC, VI | Beer and wine | No valet parking | Access up slight threshold bump | 617.522.0145
The Vee and Vee here are owners Kristen and Dan Valachovic. Their double victory is that they’ve turned a vegan-pescatarian short menu into a variety of deeply satisfying dinners, and they opened their restaurant with a recognizable style in the kitchen and a subtle mastery of flavor undertones and overtones. More remarkable, they have set their price points consistently below other bistros at this level of accomplishment. (It’s not as if seafood and top-of-the-market vegetables are cheaper than meat these days.) My usual gut response is happily to save the money. At Vee Vee, I say order more expensive wine!

Food starts with an oily Italian round loaf cut into sticks that are soft and dense inside, crusty on the ends. With unsalted butter, this is terrific. The first appetizer to set the style is roasted acorn-squash soup ($6). It’s less sweet and lighter than I expected, with subtle squash and cream flavors. A dab of crème fraîche, more sour, gives it a contrast and a third flavor. Another masterpiece of subtlety is the salad of romaine, olives, preserved lemons, and parmesan ($6). Yes, this approximates Caesar salad, but the lemony vinaigrette is a less weighty dressing, the olives are more fun than croutons and less obtrusively salty than whole anchovies, and the parmesan is real and not dominant — in sum, it’s a salad that refreshes and sharpens the appetite, unlike the usual crunchy sleeping pill.

Wild mushroom pâté ($6) is full of woodsy-mushroom flavor in a base that tastes like cream cheese. A shrimp and scallop cake ($8) is burger-size; it’s meatier but blander than the average crab cake, though a peppery chipotle mayonnaise (more fire than smoke in this sauce) makes up for that.

My favorite entrée was codfish ($20), for the sheer luscious freshness of the fish, as well as the wheatberry-shitake “ragout” and garlicky escarole. But the most impressive piece of work is quinoa pancakes, escarole, and spicy somarillo sauce ($14). Vegetarian platters are usually a problem for chefs who are trained on the American meat-starch-veggie platter. What’s going to be the big item standing in for that hunk of meat or fish? Here the quinoa pancakes, perhaps bound with egg whites, have the density to satisfy, and the light tomato-chili sauce makes it like eating, say, veal scallopini. This is a platter that would hold up versus any animal-food bistro platter in Boston.

The only dish I thought needed work was skate wing ($18). The breading of cornmeal was too gritty and distracting, even for a well-flavored seafood, as was the pesto sauce. The underlying purée of Jerusalem artichokes wasn’t distracting enough and lacked flavor. On the other hand, I would eat the sweet braised pearl onions from this dish in any course, anywhere, anytime.

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