What’s on the menu at VELA, a stunning new restaurant with Roaring Twenties vibes and a caviar sandwich

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What’s on the menu at VELA, a stunning new restaurant with Roaring Twenties vibes and a caviar sandwich

Name: VELA
Contact: 602 King St. W. (entrance off Portland St.), 416-364-111, velatoronto.com, @velatoronto
Neighbourhood: King West
Owner: Amanda Bradley (Alo, George) and Robin Goodfellow (Bar Raval)
Chef: Jeffrey Lapointe (Soho House, Piano Piano, Splendido)
Outdoor seating: A 2,000-square-foot, covered CaféTO patio along Portland
Covid-19 safety measures: Hand sanitizer stations at entrance and doorways, tables are sanitized between seatings, masks to be worn when not at tables
Accessibility: A flight of stairs leading to the main dining room of the restaurant

The food

Classic American dishes that pay homage to glamorous, golden-age hotel dining—chopped salads, shrimp cocktail, house-made pasta, ribeye steaks—but with subtle tweaks, many of which cater to contemporary tastes and sensibilities. Take the decked-out wedge salad, for example, that’s completely plant-based and gluten-free (it’s made with “sunflower chorizo”). There’s also a cashew torchon and artichoke cakes—the former is foie-gras free and the latter is crabless, but both dishes are uncanny mimics of their respective influences. Besides the dinner menu, there’s a shorter “room service” menu that’s available all day and into the night. Coming soon: lunch and weekend brunch.

The classic wedge salad gets a modern, plant-based spin. For it, a thick slice of iceberg is topped with an umami-rich tahini-miso ranch dressing, crisp sunflower “chorizo,” tomatoes, red onions, radish and fresh herbs. $15. (Guests can add chicken, shrimp or salmon for an additional cost.)

 

The makings of the wedge.

 

The artichoke cakes are a plant-based nod to crab cakes. Three of them come with romesco, dandelion greens, kale and black olives. $26.

 

The hamachi crudo features sashimi-grade yellowtail bathed in passionfruit and citrus with cucumber and Anaheim chilies. $16.

 

More prep…

 

Taking luxury to another level, the caviar sandwich crams eight grams of sustainable Canadian Northern Divine caviar with creme fraiche, shallots and chives between two pan-toasted slices of milk bread. It’s finished off with with shavings of cured egg yolk. $75. (Gluten-free option available.)

 

Here’s a closer look at that caviar.

 

To finish, a gluten- and nut-free pavlova is topped with strawberries, pink peppercorn, lemon and a cheesecake espuma. $14.

 

Executive chef Jeffery Lapointe
The drinks

The Old World–dominated wine list curated by sommelier David Ouellette (Aprés Wine Ba, Lee) spotlights champagne and its sparkling cousins, but also includes some skin-contact wines and some bottles from Ontario producers. And with Goodfellow and his former PrettyUgly team behind the bar, there’s a tipple for every taste. Cocktails here are divided into four sections: champagne-based beverages, spirit-forward “vacation drinks” inspired by international cities, whimsical creations that take their cue from movies and global classics. There’s also an interesting selection of placebo (alcohol-free) cocktails.

The Classic, a champagne-based cocktail, is a blend of cognac, cava, sugar and bitters. $15.

 

Paris, one of the bar’s “vacation drinks,” is made with cognac, dry sherry, coconut, pineapple and anise. $17.

 

Just some of the current lineup of cocktails, including Mos Eisley Cantina (third from left). Named after the fictional Star Wars bar, it’s an attention-grabbing drink made with Casamigos mezcal and tequila blanco, lime, St. Germain, egg white, jogan fruit and “the force,” of course. $19.
The space

The design team at Partisans (Bar Raval, Gusto 501) helped bring the grand hotel lobby bar to life, giving the historical building a classy makeover. The 1920s are weaved throughout the massive space—from the dramatic entrance to the standing champagne bar. Leather banquettes are seafoam green, tables are made of white Carrera marble, and—in true Partisans-style—the undulating molded ceiling comes to life with integrated LED lighting.

When indoor dining is permitted, guests will have their choice of 160 seats divided among intimate booths, cozy dining room tables, seats at the bar or open kitchen, and in the lounge. Until then, there’s ample room on the 2,000-square-foot covered CaféTO patio that runs along Portland.

The grand entrance.

 

Extra attention was given to the captivating ceiling, which provides acoustic dispersion for the live performances slated for the venue.

VELA’s all-day CaféTO patio along Portland is open for reservations. Eventually, the space will be divided into an umbrella-covered garden patio on the south end and a pergola-covered section on the north.