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Haute Eating: 10 Questions for Veranda’s Chef Kevin O’Connell

Chef Kevin O

Since it opened its kitchen in May, Veranda has become much more than a downtown lounge, thanks to the Mediterranean-inspired menu (mostly Greek and Egyptian) by chef Kevin O’Connell, who has worked under such iconic chefs as Daniel Boulud and David Burke. Utilizing local and organic produce, chef O’Connell has crafted dishes like lamb three ways, sea bass souvlaki and a char-grilled swordfish, which can be enjoyed in the sultry atmosphere along with one of their many tempting cocktails. Savor a multi-course meal or if you’re just up for drinks and appetizers, sip a Summer Sangria, Midnight at Veranda or an Ultimate Dirty Martini as you nibble on a meze platter, feta tasting or merguez sausage with chermoula vinaigrette—either way you’re in for a treat.

Haute Living: What’s noteworthy about Veranda?
Chef Kevin O’Connell: Veranda is a restaurant by day and a lounge by night. The kitchen opened officially last month and we are currently doing some fun, Mediterranean twists on classic NYC brunch dishes and launching “Summers on the Veranda Happy Hour” with a special tasting/cocktail menu. We opened the outdoor patio seating, which compliments the rustic Medittereanean cuisine and the West Village vibe.

HL; What are some of your favorite dishes at your restaurant?
KO: My focus has been on using the flavors and profiles of the Mediterranean region to utilize the best of local and organic produce available from small farms and artisinal producers in the NY metro area. Deep, green small batch olive oils, several cheeses like Feta and Halloumi and American lamb and imported Mediterranean fish are the starting point for dishes such as our signature Lamb Three Ways and a Rouget (red mullet) with bulgur pilaf, fresh green chick peas and basil/yogurt sauce. The Lamb Burger is also a personal favorite.

A newly added brunch item is the Veranda Benedict, which is an appeal to vegetarian diners. A house made spinach feta pie with chargrilled, sliced portobello and topped with a dill/chive hollandaise.

HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?
KO: I prefer small, out of the way cafes and pubs (Ear Inn on Spring Street or Mc Sorleys on East 7th)

HL: What’s your ideal meal?
KO: Dry aged Ribeye steak from my backyard grill with farmstand vegetables

HL: Where do you like to dine for a special occasion?
KO: Peter Luger’s or Cafe Boulud

HL: What’s your favorite NYC neighborhood?
KO: Tribeca, which is where my wife and I met. I live in the East Village now and love it – I ride my Vespa everyday to the restaurant.

HL: What do you like to do in the city on your days off?
KO: I like to take my kids on scooter rides through Manhattan on early Sunday mornings when there is no traffic.

HL: Your favorite vacation destination?
KO: Hawaii – I lived there on the north shore of Oahu for 2 years

HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
KO: Going flounder fishing at 3am off the Jersey shore and bringing the fish home to filet and fry. After a nap, hitting the farm stand for fresh corn on the cob and Jersey tomatoes and eating cold fresh fish filets with tartar sauce, hot buttered corn on the cob with sea salt and tomato salad with a simple vinaigrette.

HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
KO: Extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lamb shoulder, white sweet corn and aged Gruyere cheese.

Veranda is located at 130 Seventh Avenue South; 212-255-3331.

To reach Tracey Ceurvels, visit her blog, The Busy Hedonist, or email her.

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New York February / March 2014
New York February / March 2014