A pretty good rule of thumb is that the overall quality of a restaurant is inversely proportional to the size of its space and menu. I remember walking by The Little Owl in Manhattan’s West Village on my way home every night (also known as the apartment building from Friends) and popping in whenever I saw one of its few seats open – even if I wasn’t hungry – because I knew it might be weeks until there wasn’t an hour wait for dinner.
Table, in downtown Barrington’s new Coastal Commons mixed-use complex, could be one of those places. The space is small – 28 indoor seats plus some patio seating – and is casually and tastefully appointed. The rustic tables, all made from 95-year-old wood at a farm in Vermont, inspired the restaurant’s name and are anchored by a long communal table dubbed the house mascot.
Proprietor Claude Lochet has lived in Barrington for 14 years, and has commuted to Boston during that time to serve as the General Manager of The Palm Restaurant. Recognizing a need for a local bistro, Claude pounced on the opportunity to open Table, and in November the restaurant opened its doors. Described as “a small restaurant providing European-style service and food,” Claude explains what this means to him: “My childhood was spent in France. It is where I learned about fresh ingredients, wine and hospitality. At Table, we try to play off the classics and put an American, local twist [on them].”
I started my recent visit to Table with a Spring Vegetable Chowder ($8) – fresh fava beans, English peas, carrots and radish in a bacon cream base. My first impression was one of disbelief. After dating a vegetarian for four years I’ve become sensitive to their plight, and I did not understand why a chef would tease the menu with a vegetarian dish only to have hopes dashed by the last ingredient of bacon cream. My second impression made me forget the first. Since I’ve also eaten almost as many vegetables in the last four years as I did in my first 31, I’ve realized that much of what I’d eaten in the past was a mushy mess. Vegetables are most delicious with some crispness and crunch, and the freshness of the Vegetable Chowder’s ingredients provided just the right amount of texture to the light, creamy base. And speaking of freshness, you can’t get any closer to the source – Table grows vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers in their onsite garden.
For my entrée, I went with the Table Brisket Burger ($15.95) topped with smoked Gouda, mushroom marmalade and sauce gribiche (a French mayonnaise-style cold egg sauce). I trusted I was in good hands, so when the server asked how I’d like my patty cooked I replied with “whatever the chef thinks is best.” The burger came out much rarer than I would normally eat, but of course I can’t blame this misstep on anyone but myself. The toppings made for a unique and tasty combo, and the side of frites were accompanied by house ketch- up, which is always a nice detail.
My dinner companions went “off- menu” for the evening, with one ordering the “Plat du Jour” of Maryland striped bass ($23.95) and the other ordering the Spring Vegetable entrée ($15.75). The striped bass came with a side of wild, foraged fiddlehead ferns, a vegetable I had never seen nor heard of before – it looks like a curled asparagus and has a similar but earthier taste. The dish also came with salt-cured fingerling potatoes and a red wine caramel sauce, and the ensemble was a hit that was “cooked to perfection.” The Spring Vegetable Entrée on this night (ingredients rotate often) included creamed spinach, potato croquettes and a mix of raw and roasted vegetables almost identical to what was in the soup. The potato croquettes were described by our server as a “mashed potato donut,” but don’t fear the guilt factor as they are very light. Also, the creamed spinach was relatively thin for creamed spinach (but still flavorful) so by the end of the main course we all felt we could order dessert with impunity.
We shared three orders. First a Foremost Baking Company Doublefudge Brownie, topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream ($8) – probably the favorite (who doesn’t like chocolate), but certainly the least “inventive.” Second was the spiced Aquidneck Honey Panna Cotta on lemon thyme shortbread ($5) – sweetness with a kick that made me raise my eyebrows and nod my head. Finally, a Dave’s Coffee Milk Espuma with walnut powder ($5) – an interesting texture I haven’t tried before, but for me, it was stuck in an uncompetitive no-man’s-land between mousse and ice cream.
Table’s menu changes weekly, and Claude mentions they are “looking forward to the warmer months so we can take advantage of all the local seafood and farm products.” Also, in addition to lunch, dinner and take-out service, Table offers Sunday brunch. I suggest you get there early: as my gut tells me there’ll be a wait.
Table. 8 Anoka Avenue, Barrington. 337-5830