Our annual look at the essential restaurants illuminating the city's dining scene

Josh Dalton, the owner and talented head chef of Veritas, which opened Downtown in late 2017 after relocating from Delaware, isn't a standard restaurateur. Often traveling for inspiration and constantly striving for perfection, he's the type of guy (I can vouch for this) who follows up a glowing review with a request for suggestions on improving his restaurant. No one else in Columbus has done such a thing in my experience.

Then again, no one else in Columbus is doing exactly what Veritas is doing. Offering an informal but stylish, lounge-like dining room with a predominantly gray-and-wood, midcentury-modern interior, Veritas celebrates the art and science of cooking nearly equally. Its culture-hopping, playful-yet-sophisticated, modernist-leaning dishes—which are aesthetically linked to those from edgy eateries such as Chicago's Alinea—have been carefully designed to stimulate eyes, palates and minds.

Here you'll find dishes like a sublime and smoky wild mushroom toast enriched with house-made ricotta and showered with edible flowers and microgreens; it conjures something encountered in an enchanted forest. Lowbrow snacks get highfalutin makeovers, so chicken wings receive a duck fat confit bath, and uncommonly smooth hush puppies are surprisingly refined. In other dishes, sous-vide beef meets Mexican street corn, and liquid nitrogen is used to create a super-cooled dessert—a study of chocolate in multiple guises—that forms tiny clouds when it's served.

Veritas is well-known for its tasting menus, which are ideal for adventurous diners with extra time and money. This fall Veritas will, in fact, be transitioning to a tasting-menu-only restaurant with two options: a five-course presentation and an eight- to 12-course offering. It's a bold move, but boldness is one of Dalton's favorite ingredients, and his nightly tasting menus have long anchored exciting dining experiences to remember.

There's no letdown in the superior beverage program, which boasts some of the city's best cocktails and one of its smartest wine and beer lists. Steering patrons through the forward-looking offerings is an uncommonly knowledgeable staff that can explain the sometimes-arcane cooking techniques and, when asked, will enthusiastically offer excellent suggestions.

Did You Know?

Veritas has amped up its wine list since moving Downtown, hiring an in-house sommelier, Gregory Stokes, who is in the process of studying for his Master Sommelier diploma, a notoriously grueling undertaking.