Restaurant review: The Table is set for impressive meals

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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