Restaurant review: The Table is set for impressive meals

By Columbus Alive
From the December 12, 2013 edition

Embracing an elegant rusticity, The Table is French by nature, Columbus by nurture and modern-day Brooklyn in spirit. This handsome and smart, bakery-included Short Norther — it shares owners with Bodega — will also reappear on my upcoming list of “best new restaurants.”

In a loud era when boasting and buzzwords are the norm, The Table’s quiet ethos is refreshingly understated. But I’d say its raison d’etre (a phrase it’d likely eschew) is providing a laudably affordable, virtual gastro-vacation to a great “place” — the French countryside via NYC.

Brick, repurposed wood, cream and turquoise walls set the stage. Charmingly mismatched tables and chairs, large windows, stylish music, warm evening lighting, a modern open kitchen and jeans-clad waiters in Homage-y T-shirts complete the chic scene.

Table’s compendious menus — it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner — abide by this refined simplicity. Drink offerings do too, as there’s a small Ohio-and-Pennsylvania-starring bottled beer selection (most are $6) and a brief but effective, international leaning wines-by-the-glass list ($7-$9).

Sounding like a Skinemax movie, “Raw Tangle” ($8) is a salad I worried would be too crudite-like. But man, that unusual beauty was far more intriguing. Piled atop a patch of what amounted to dip-like, super-smoky dark brown eggplant rillettes were contrasting strands of colorful root vegetables tossed in a perky lemon-yogurt dressing. Pretty watermelon radishes provided a crown.

Table’s Squash Ravioli small plate ($7) contained light pasta pillows filled with a sweet pumpkin-y mash untainted by pie-type spices. Adding sharper contours were parmesan, smoked paprika, micro-greens and a peppery, nutty and garlicky kale pesto.

Sold in increasingly expensive quanta, Table’s plates of choose-from-a-small-list homemade charcuterie and carefully curated cheeses are a big deal here, and should be. In fact what I sampled was so unfunky and impressive, I’d suggest would-be-foodies who are actually squeamish sissies will be “safe” here trying things like chicken liver mousse (blissfully creamy and rich) and blood sausage (firm, charred and bewitching). For my $24, three-meats-two-cheeses order, I also got surprisingly turkey-like jambon blanc (the menu misuses the Spanish “jamon”) plus worth-seeking-out local cheeses including stars like Charloe and Houtz. These were served with good homemade bread and crostini, plus counterpoints like assertive pickles and Dijon-style mustard (both also homemade), jammy caramelized onions, berries and fruit jelly.

I also loved the Pork Goulash ($14), an Alsatian-type stew. Hearty and comforting yet peppery and bold, its slow-cooked pig and potato received neat, sweet-and-sour complements from semi-krauty cabbage, yellow bell peppers and stewed tomatoes.

There were a few bumps during lunches. So while a lush and wonderful carrot soup (all “du jours” are $6/huge bowl) used star anise to tweak its sweetness and crispy leeks as a persuasive foil, its otherwise excellent ribollita-riffing kale, bread and multi-meated sibling featured a scorched parmesan cheese lattice that veered into burnt-tasting. A similarly over-torched reticulum detracted from an elsewise marvelous Mac and Cheese ($10/entree; $3/side) enhanced by mushrooms and kale (obviously a popular green here) that I partnered with a very good bacon cheeseburger on a homemade brioche roll ($12).

Brick Chicken ($12 at lunch; $15 at dinner) can be boring. Not here. Though I’d prefer much cracklier skin, my compressed white-meat-quarter bird was tender, juicy and perky with rosemary. Plus its killer sides of spicy greens and creamy white-bean-corn-and-tomato “Ohio Succotash” weren’t just afterthought backseaters.

You’d probably expect terrific desserts here. Based on daily specials of nut-crusted pumpkin cake with a brown butter/cream cheese icing and dense, chewy and addictive salt-edged chocolate cookies, I’d say, once again, you are right.

Photos by Meghan Ralston