The Table: Casual Class, Sad Risotto

Saturdays are great for doing many things, be they fixing the various broken/malfunctioning things that a busy workweek not allow time for or just sitting on a park bench watching your children play at the local park. They’re also great days for going to places that thirty minute work lunches otherwise prohibit, such as a casual sit-down restaurant that just opened up downtown.

The Restaurant: Cooking Food So You Don’t Have To

Promising simple, well-made food from quality ingredients is nothing new, as the less-is-more trend is nothing new in the culinary world. However, for the area, a new face promising such things is always a welcome break from the well-tread landscape saturated by fast food chain restaurants.

The Good: Replacing the well-loved Mac’s on Main, there are many great things to look forward to at The Table. Immediately after entering through the familiar heavy wooden doors, one is greeted by a well-thought out, striking blue-grey with white trim aesthetic, tasteful lighting using the currently trendy retro light bulbs with the long elements and the bold, golden glow to cast a welcoming warmth and adding to the overall casual atmosphere. Above the bar, a mounted bicycle accompanies the confident message that The Table is the best place place for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A bold claim indeed.

Wait times were short, fortunately, which was a relief since the first question after the initial greeting was whether or not we had a reservation. After a five to ten minute wait, a table that had been sitting bare for the entire time we were waiting. No matter, we were sat, drinks and appetizer ordered within five to ten minutes of arriving. Initially, we were a tad suspicious of the recommended tomato tart, worrying about the possibility of the eggs overtaking the flavor of everything else. Thankfully wrong we were, as the tomatoes truly shined, a sweet star setting high expectations for the entrees yet to come with its flaky crust, the right amount of eggs and oh, the tomatoes! Honestly, if I wanted a light lunch, I’d take the tart with a trio of well-prepared scallops or perhaps the hanger steak that came with the other entree ordered.

Not long after the appetizer was finished, the main stars of the evening arrived. For the tot, a meal of a grilled cheese sandwich and a side of thyme and salt seasoned fries as what she really wanted, a stack of pancakes, were not available to order for dinner. As for the girlfriend, she ordered what was to be the true celebrity of the evening, an exquisite hanger steak, prepared rare accompanied by mashed red potatoes, Rockefeller butter and grilled vegetables. Beautifully prepared to order, the steak was tender, juicy and a melt-in-your mouth delight. When paired with the potatoes, vegetables and butter, culinary bliss was achieved.

The Bad: Being a off-and-on watcher of Hell’s Kitchen, I was quite happy to see a dish that contained two of the staples used to test the mettle of contestant’s culinary might: scallops and risotto. After the exquisite heirloom tomato tart and locally-brewed pale ale had come and gone, I was excited to see what these often difficult to pull off menu items had in store. I’d like to say that my taste buds went on a journey of delicate flavors, well-defined textures and satisfying finish. Unfortunately, such was not the case, with the scallops being rubbery and the risotto mushy with both completely devoid of flavor.

Neither entree item was helped by the heavy dusting of breadcrumbs, which gave the risotto the appearance of snow with a heap of sand on top. On the menu, it mentions royal trumpet mushrooms and brie to be in the risotto. Aside from a tiny sliver the size of my thumbnail, no further trace of mushroom was present and the almost non-existent brie is a tad too subtle for me.

What really saddened me was that, for the first time in almost thirty-two years, I had to send a dish back to be re-prepared. Upon re-preparation, the scallops were properly cooked, if not particularly flavorful and the risotto was relatively the same. It is my hope that a new batch of risotto was made after the dish was sent back. For the price of this one dish, I could have eaten four spicy chicken sandwiches, all of which would have had twice the texture and flavor I was expecting from the risotto. With the breaded chicken, the breading would have helped; with the risotto, the breadcrumbs seem to be an attempt to hide the lack of flavor and underwhelming texture in what should have been a shining example of a upscale casual dining experience.

By far the biggest disappointment, as I had been anxious to try risotto ever since first hearing about it and watching it being made on television. This disappointment was made all the more striking by the fact that even my daughter’s simple plate of grilled cheddar on ciabatta and fries with just the right amount of salt and thyme. How does a kid’s meal at five dollars taste better that a fancier meal that costs more than three and a half times as much?

Conclusion: Though Gordon Ramsay would have spat the risotto out and called the chef a donkey or something worse, I still have high hopes for this restaurant and want it to succeed. Hopefully, this experience was a fluke, a bad night in the history of a restaurant still going through the settling process after opening. If I had gone by myself and had nothing else to base my experience on, I wouldn’t be going back. However, despite the failure of my dish to impress, everything else was more than enough to ensure a return visit in about six months or so, to see if tonight was more than a one-time occurrence.

Rating: 3.5/5

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