Dear Vareli on 112th,

I guess it’s because it’s been midterms week or perhaps it is my laziness (which a poli sci self-help book describes as a serious psychological issue…) but I ate out a lot more this week than I’m used to.  I tried Vareli – finally a decent restaurant aside from Community in the Columbia neighborhood.  Is it just me or Community’s dinner wayyy too sugary?  Regardless, Vareli’s small dishes were pretty good if a little pricey.  We opted not to try the big plates as they seemed pretty mundane – burgers, roast chicken, strip steaks, and braised short ribs.  How are any of these, except maybe the lamb burger, Mediterranean or remotely interesting?  Anyways, we tried:

the crispy pork belly and polenta – which didn’t taste porky but was still good.  the polenta however tasted like those polenta cakes you buy from the supermarket.  that did not of course prevent me from garfing down all of it.  the grilled octopus – the best of the dishes with a very subtle spiciness and savory sauce.  the mussels – standard but still good.  the tuna tartar – also standard but a solid delivery.  and some very good beets.  the ingredients all tasted pretty fresh (according to the internet, Vareli uses ingredients from Westside).

We didn’t get any dessert though because the selection isn’t extensive, and one of the most appealing desserts was yogurt.  We thought about getting it then we realized Pinkberry is a stone’s throw away.  I think the problem with the dessert menu is a reflection of Vareli’s general weakness: a lack of imagination.  While the dishes are good and satisfying, they don’t really offer any new or interesting twists; it’s all pretty standard and safe.

The interior does however compensate a little for this weakness.  The interior is quite nice, spacious (the restaurant is two floors), and warm, and while the food may not be cutting edge, it does feel like you’ve escaped the Columbia bubble for a few brief moments.  The tiny tables however I did not love.  Despite the fact that Vareli is marketed as a “tapas place” that encourages sharing, we had trouble squeezing our “small plates” onto the tables; cutlery kept falling to the ground, and the girl behind me dropped her water what seems to have been wine, splashing it all over the floor and my leather jacket… (thankfully it only stained on the inside stained only a little on the outside).  Overall, the service is pretty good/attentive, and I would definitely give Vareli a try, especially as when we went (this Monday), they were giving customers 20% off their check in celebration of their opening.

Menupages for Vareli
Bwog Write-up
Image via varelinyc.com

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