In all cities, one of the most interesting things is walking down a random street, entering a door and walking inside to a completely different universe. You realize how big the town is and how there are so many things going on all day and all night that you aren’t even aware of. New York City is definitely the town that never sleeps. I love going somewhere that I haven’t been in awhile and the area is packed with new stuff that I never knew existed six months ago.
Vela is located on West 21st street between 5/6th. It is kind of a strange block. There are restaurants, stores and residential buildings but it is sort of long and dark because there are few large windows on the street so you can’t see what is happening inside. I saw the sign for Vela and walked in. I had no idea what to expect because you are literally walking into a door and see nothing from the outside.
The restaurant’s cuisine is Brazil/Japanese. It makes sense if you have ever been to Brazil. I believe the largest population outside of the locals is the huge influx of Asians. The fresh fish and Japanese influence makes for some good sushi. Sushi Samba opened a few years ago in NYC and has the same theme. Sushi Samba does a much better job.
Perhaps Vela is a late night spot which wouldn’t surprise me based on the location. Clubs run up and down that street at night but the place was pretty empty. They have been open 10 months and got pretty good press at opening.
The food was ok, not great. There was only one appetizer which was really yummy but otherwise, not a place to return to.
The chef has created a section called Tataki Salsa which is fish lightly seared and then dressed with a sauce or something. We tried the Smoked Yellow Tail with Mango Salsa. 4 slices of seared smoked yellow tail with one slice of jalapeno over the top and a small dab of mango salsa. The mango salsa was literally 1/4 teaspoon if that of tiny tiny pieces of red and green peppers and I don’t even remember tasting the mango. Good idea but poor execution. If there was a nice scoop of a rich hearty mango salsa on top it would have been delicious. Oh well.
We did 2 small plates. One was supposedly spicy tuna tartare on crispy rice. I had imagined something completely different. They served small rectangles of rice that had been been crispy on the outside by frying. Then they doused the 4 pieces with a spicy tuna tartare. The tuna tartare was so weird that is tasted like a strange tomato paste concoction. We had to ask what it was because we didn’t remember ordering it. It was really not good at all. Idea was good but again poor execution.
The other small plate was delicious. Spicy Rock Shrimp Tempura with sweet sake and dashi. A huge helping of rock shrimp that had the perfect amount of tempura covering. It wasn’t doughy at all. The pieces were light and spicy. I would have ordered my own bowl if I had known.
We had a few pieces of sushi which were small. I really prefer the small pieces but it wasn’t anything stellar yet it was fresh. We also had a small bowl of tarot root which is my new favorite. I could eat bowls of this stuff. Theirs was a bit greasy but the taste had just a hint of hot spice which I liked.
All and all, I’m glad I tried it but won’t return. They did have a vodka there which was new called 42 from New Zealand which was very good. So, at least I learned something new from the experience. But, a night out with my better half is always a good night.