Yesterday afternoon, after helping J relaunch her food blog, now called Grow Cook Eat, I was planning to get some work done around the house before heading off to a birthday party in Dorchester. But then I got a text message from A: "On off chance that u free want to try new jp restaurant tonite?" Gotta love txt msg diction. In my warped sense of geography JP seemed to be along the way to Dorchester. New restaurant sounds good. You can't live entirely on birthday cake. Well, except maybe at the Foster house in Belmont.
Cut to us settling in at cozy Vee Vee, a "New American Bistro in Jamaica Plain, serving mid-priced, modern American food, with a focus on fresh seafood, vegetables and grains." Pescovegetarian and locovorian, like many of my friends, the menu was enticing, and the wine list, largely "Grown sustainably, organically or biodynamically" was impressive. Recently a tea house, the 25ish seat restaurant was small but high-ceilinged, with orange walls hung with lots of mirrors. It was a little on the dark side, but very comfortable.
We began with crispy polenta, mushroom bolognese, shaved parmesan ($7) and tonnato, white & green asparagus, orange confit, fennel ($8). I have to say the tonnato was the worst of the dishes we had, but that's a bit like my contention that Rome is the worst city in Italy. The bottom of a superb field is nothing to be ashamed of. Emulsified tuna and orange confit just didn't do it for us, but the asparagus was very nicely done, and I usually despise white asparagus for being mushy and awful. Not the case at all.
The crispy polenta was amazing. A bit like the turnip cake I had in Hong Kong, it came in five small cubes arranged around a central well of mushroom, cheese and greens. Crispy, salty, a hint of cheese and maybe truffle. These are what tater tots pray to be reincarnated as. I would siphon ethanol out of flex-fuel vehicles (if there were any) to turn the corn back into polenta if I could.
For mains, we shared black-eyed pea fritters, wild rice, carrot-cashew puree, sauteed pea tendrils and quinoa croquettes, fava beans, spiced yogurt, tomato-cucumber relish, $14 each. These dishes had certain yin and yang similarities and both were satsifying. The black-eyed pea fritters looked like falafel, but it was the quinoa croquettes that had the true spiritual connection to that middle-eastern treat.
The croquettes were about the size of crabcakes, crispy on the outside and quinoa-like on the inside, and luxuriated in a tahini-like yogurt sauce and israeli-style tomato-cucumber salad. The fava beans were super fresh and a welcome surprise. The fritters were smaller and darker, crunchy and spicy in a different tradition, with a small pile of cold wild rice and a nest of delicious crunchy pea tendrils. And you know how much I enjoy any kind of carrot puree.
All in all, it was a very well composed and satisfying meal with wine but no dessert (remember, birthday cake), almost completely vegetarian except for the tonnato. The menu is brief, but I expect it to change with the seasons. It seems a silly bone to pick with a place that offers so much to vegetarians, but I would quibble that the choices were very restricted if you opt out of shellfish, and the kosher and allergic sets often do. Sorry it was too dark to photograph any of the food, as it was attractively plated, too.