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Millcreek • Root vegetables don't get the respect they deserve.
I had that revelation recently at Table X, a charming new restaurant in a neighborhood that could use an infusion of foodie passion. One of the best things I ate was a "vegetable steak," which I ordered mostly because I knew my dining companions wouldn't, but also because I love vegetables and curiosity got the better of me.
Like a lot of dishes at Table X, the success of this dish relies on a skilled chef's hand as well as food that actually is at hand, and root vegetables are readily available during these bleak, cold months. As our personable server explained it, this "steak" ($20) was created by layering thin slices of rutabaga, parsnip and celery root (although on another night, different vegetables might be used). The layers were rolled into a disc before being grilled and adorned with carrots, radishes, a tart relish and feathery greens. It rested upon a layer of saucy white beans, making it a substantial entrée that didn't feel heavy.
The entrée menu also included a short rib, a pork chop, scallops and fish. But that vegetable steak epitomized for me what Table X is all about: three young chefs who take food that is in season and as locally sourced as possible and do something surprising with it. They chose for their playground an old building once used for storing produce and candling eggs as well as fermenting cheese, so it's a space repurposed for its intended purpose.
It had to be remodeled, of course, but chef/owners Mike Blocher, Nick Fahs and David Barboza kept the original vaulted timber ceiling and the wood floor. Large windows on the south end of the dining room make the room feel even bigger, as does the seating arrangement: One wall offers three, semicircular, upholstered booths, the other is lined with a banquette fronted by tables. In between are just enough tables that diners can easily walk through the room and converse without raising their voices.
The chefs are visible working/playing in the open kitchen, behind which is a private dining room for 14 with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook a now-dormant garden. A bar with counter stools offers a close-up of the action. Overall, the design is modern and hip, but comfortable and casual.
At first glance, the menu seems rather small. But everything is made in house, and once you start eating, you realize there are a lot of moving parts to these dishes. Sometimes there were too many moving parts for my taste: lamb tartare ($12), for example, was overly sweet thanks to maple syrup and carrot "raisins," which was only one of three carrot incarnations in the dish.
The scallops ($27) were also a little busy, with Meyer lemon puree, kabocha squash, pickled sea bean relish, a sprinkle of watercress and a crumble of "vegetable dirt," which added a subtle bitter taste to the dish. None of those smaller elements was enough to balance the richness of the shellfish, which were big and beautiful.
Those are quibbles, however. I'm not one to discourage free play in the kitchen, and I know that the next time I visit Table X, the whole complexion of either dish could change thanks to what foods are at hand.
A succulent beef short rib ($28), which was darkly caramelized with an intoxicating black garlic jam, was pure perfection. Puréed carrots added color and paired well with the sweet meat, and the oyster mushrooms were just the right finishing touch.
Icelandic arctic char ($28) was lighter than the rib, but still deeply flavorful and offered spaetzle made with rye, a suddenly trendy grain that also is used in an appetizer biscuit served with pork and crème fraîche ($7). The char was served skin side up and was perfectly cooked, perched atop pickled Brussels sprouts and accented with aioli and a spoonful of mustard seed relish the color of rubies.
A boneless pork chop ($32), which came from Christiansen Family Farm in Vernon, was another well-balanced dish, perfectly pink, juicy and flavorful, served with charred cabbage and a surprising chestnut purée. All those flavors played nicely together.
I haven't tried the winter vegetable stew ($20), but the Table X crew seems to have a winning way with vegetables. A cannelloni appetizer made from rolled slices of cooked sweet potato ($7) was light and delightful, stuffed with house-made farmer's cheese and accented with chile pepper flakes, sesame seeds and peppery watercress. The Jerusalem artichoke starter ($10) was good, too, more subtly flavored but more visually dramatic thanks to a schmear of artichoke on the side of the earthenware bowl.
Like everything else on the menu, desserts will be ever-changing. If you get a chance, try the pecan tart ($9). It was nutty, petite and sweet but tempered by a pumpkin/citrus sorbet. It was what dessert should be: a small indulgence at the end of the meal. The rice pudding ($9) was another example of a winning winter dish thanks to its preserved fruit compote. I would love to eat it for breakfast.
Table X also offers a chef's tasting menu ($55) that includes five courses of what's on that day's menu in smaller portions. For an extra $20, you get three wines chosen for that menu.
The wine selection at Table X is carefully curated to complement the chefs' mission but large enough to provide plenty of options. Wines that are sold by the glass can also be ordered by the carafe. Table X has a full bar with a small but interesting selection of craft cocktails ($10-$12) and an equally small selection of craft beers ($6-$15).
Servers are friendly and well-trained but relaxed and unobtrusive. There's a lot to know and relate to diners; most of our questions were answered, but when the servers didn't know, they went back to the kitchen for more information.
The capable crew of Table X has an admirable goal: to innovate with seasonal food in a space that is cool-looking and comfortable. After seeing what they do with food in the dead of winter, I can't wait to see what the changing seasons will bring, especially once that garden is in full bloom.
Food • HHHhj
Mood • HHHhj
Service • HHH
Noise • b
This lovely new restaurant, which set up shop in a remodeled warehouse once used to store produce and cheese, features an ever-changing, small menu of dishes that put seasonal foods to imaginative uses. A vegetable steak elevated lowly root vegetables to an art form, while a beef short rib glistened under an ebony mantle of succulent garlic jam. Table X, owned by three chefs who vow to keep their eyes and fingers "close to the ground," is full of surprises.
Location • 1457 E. 3350 South, Millcreek; 385-528-3712
Online • tablexrestaurant.com
Hours • Wednesday-Sunday, 5-10 p.m.
Children's menu • No
Prices • $$$-$$$$
Liquor • Full service
Reservations • Yes
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • Yes
On-site parking • Yes
Credit cards • Yes