For my birthday on September 29, I was surprised with a reservation at Table in the Shaw neighborhood of DC. Open since 2013, this restaurant had been previously run by Frederik De Pue, but after a falling out between him and his business partners, Akhtar Nawab, formerly of Gramercy Tavern in New York City, became the Executive Chef and I was excited to see what he had in store for us.
Table is an unassuming restaurant on a quiet block near the Convention Center. From the outside of this olive-colored brick restaurant, you might not think anything of it. The word "table" is painted in white above a large garage-like window and it doesn't look like anything particularly special. But, upon entering, I soon realized its charm. Inside, it's a small restaurant with about 10 small light wood tables with white chairs and a New York City feel. At either side of the open kitchen are two special high-top tables used for the Chef's Tasting Menu on Tuesday nights, which was exactly what we had signed up for.
My date had worked with Erica, the hostess, to ensure a vegan tasting and remarked that she was incredibly helpful in planning this special night. In fact, she was there to greet us upon arrival and seated us at the special tables.
We started with a Butternut Squash Soup, which was a great start to this incredible 10-course meal. The thick, rich butternut squash puree was complemented by Brussels sprout leaves and croutons. The pairing was a Champagne by Marie-Hanz.
The second course was a Gooseberry Salad with shaved watermelon radish in a smoked olive oil vinaigrette. We found the gooseberries to have an odd taste, but enjoyed the unusualness of the salad for what it was. And I've always found watermelon radish to have a particularly pleasing aesthetic quality.
The third course was Fried Artichokes in a red pepper jam with arugula. I found the arugula leaves to be awkward as they were a bit too large to eat without folding, but the fried artichokes were very good in the red pepper jam. And the pairing of a Ouede Geuze beer from Belgium was a nice touch.
The fourth course was Bruschetta with a soy-almond aioli and piperade. I loved the bread and the red peppers, but it was a bit too much of the aioli, which tasted a bit like vegan butter to me. The pairing was a Bedell Albarino/Sauvignon Blanc from New York (2013).
A Cauliflower Meuniere made with capers, hazelnuts, pistachios, and lemons was the fifth course and one of the best dishes of the night. The flavors meshed perfectly -- simple, yet satisfying. Another Sauvignon Blanc was paired with this dish.
The sixth course was one of the most unique -- a Smoked Eggplant Ravioli with fresh peas in herb oil. I must say for a non-vegan restaurant to serve up a vegan ravioli -- well, that definitely gets points in my book. The ravioli was scrumptious though the eggplant was a tad too smoky for me. Still, I really enjoyed this dish and my date absolutely loved it. The presentation was absolutely wonderful. A delicious Pinot Noir from Silvan Ridge Winery in Willamette Valley was served alongside this dish.
The seventh course was an Heirloom Corn Polenta, which was my favorite dish of all. Talk about a flavor explosion -- over a pumpernickel puree was corn polenta, Brussels sprouts, and maitake mushrooms. The pumpernickel puree really made this dish shine as it gave it a rich, unique flavor that blended well with the different types of polenta and sauteed vegetables and mushrooms. The pairing was a Tempranillo from Spain.
The eighth and ninth courses were at the point where I was having such a good time that I forgot to take pictures. My apologies. But, the eighth course was Le Tardiniere, a chef's selection of locally sourced vegetables, which included corn puree, carrots, greens, beans, and argula with charred onion powder. This dish was very good. It was served with a Syrah/Grenache blend.
This was followed by a Salted Watermelon sorbet with compressed watermelon and cilantro served with a Chateau Romieu Sauternes (2012). The watermelon was very good.
Last, but not least, the tenth course was a Sherry Poached Pear with pepita granola and an apple chip. We both loved the dessert.
Sitting at the Chef's Table made the entire experience that much more enjoyable as we could pretty much see everything they were doing. I will mention that there was a leg of an animal hanging on display on the counter (I kid you not) when we first sat down, which they promptly removed without me saying anything. Much appreciated. I also found it odd that wines were brought out in a glass without much explanation of which winery they were from and the vintage, however, when we asked they knew this information.
On the positive side, I will mention a few things. The service was great -- they were attentive to our every needs. But, with such a great date, I will say that he distracted me during most of the meal. The food, overall, was really exceptional. My date, who is not vegan, was very impressed with the complexity of some dishes and the simplicity of others. I also loved that they gave me a menu at the end that actually detailed all of the vegan dishes and wine/beer pairings rather than giving us a standard non-customized menu as many other restaurants do. Little details like that make all the difference in the world. They even sent us home with a bag of the fantastic pepita granola. For $95 per person plus $55 for the wine pairing, the price was a bit high, but we felt it was in line with the experience.
Vegans -- you have another restaurant to add to your list for special occasions. Highly recommended.
903 N Street NW
Washington, DC 20001