Friday, February 11, 2011

Veslo - My Take on the Dalmatian Sensation

Veslo - 32-11 Broadway, Astoria NY 11106
N/Q Train to Broadway

Just this week, a fellow Astorian, Ana gave us her take on a new Croatian restaurant, Veslo.  Well I must say that it piqued my curiosity so much that I had to see it for myself.  Taking a fellow Croat with me, my friend Jenny and I indulged in an evening of delicious eats and fond memories of our Eastern European culture.

Before I get into the details, I wanted to give a brief background about the word Veslo and its meaning.  In Croatian as well as in other select Slavic languages including Slovak (my native tongue), Veslo means oar.  The significance of this word is important because you see it as the dominant theme in Veslo's interior and exterior design.  From its logo to its door handle to its ceiling and wall decor, oars are tastefully displayed everywhere.

I very much liked Veslo's set up - a long rectangular front-of-the-house with a modern, stone stacked bar, which then leads to a more squarish dining room with round tables for groups and square ones for couples.  There's a large window in the back that peeks into Veslo's upcoming outdoor seating for when the weather gets warmer (I can't wait!)  The color scheme is made up of reds, blues and earthy tones to conjure up images of the sea.  I think it works well to create a relaxing, rustic vibe with a modern undertone. 

It's not surprising to see that Veslo's menu is full of seafood specialties, which are interlaced into its every aspect.  But besides all the fish, there are also wonderful meat and veggie options that brought me back to my Eastern European roots.

Grilled Octopus - Jenny was immediately drawn to this dish because it hit close to home, as her mom makes it on a regular basis.  Needless to say, it had a lot to live up to.

Overall, the octopus delivered.  Served in two large pieces that were beautifully charred on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside, it's one of the better versions I've had.  In terms of flavor, both of us agreed that it fell a little flat - I think it needed more acid (even after we added a hefty sprinkling of lemon juice, it was missing that punchy zing). 

Stuffed Cabbage - I can't even explain how excited I was to hear this was the day's special.  Served up with a side of Croatian-style baked potatoes, it rested in the most amazing beef broth that had a slight sweetness to it.  The cabbage itself was stuffed with a rice/beef mixture and plenty of delicious spices.  Jenny went as far as to say it reminded her of her baba's (grandma's) stuffed cabbage.

Veal Gnocchi - Even before seeing the menu, Jenny knew she was getting the gnocchi (Ana's review enticed her).  She gave me a generous amount to taste and it was pretty good. I won't say amazing because I thought the gnocchi were a bit dense, but the veal was tender and flavorful, and the thick veal sauce stuck to the gnocchi dutifully.

Palacinke - The Croatian version of crepes, we were eager to try Veslo's rendition and chose three different fillings - marmalade, chocolate and ricotta cheese.  The latter was my favorite, as the ricotta was flavored with orange zest, producing the most delicate combination with the soft, airy crepe batter.  The marmalade was yummy too but it would've been better with slightly less of it.  Overall, this was a fantastic dessert that I'd love to repeat next time.

Service and Cost:
Since Veslo is a new establishment, the service was very careful, observant and dutiful.  I liked our server who seemed to have a good understanding of the menu.  On more than one occasion, one of the managers came by to check in on us - and not just because I was taking pictures, I saw this level of attention was given to everyone.

Prices are moderate - our dinner set us back $34/person including tax and tip (and drinks too).

Appetizers - $8 -$15

Pasta - $12 - $24
Fish - $18 - $28
Meat - $14 - $28
Dessert - $5 - $6

3 Mmmms

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