Restaurant Review: The Table — A Memorably Delicious Destination Location
The Table is serving a nightly prix fixe menu that will win over the palates of the most finicky foodies.
The Table at 2447 Mass. Ave, Cambridge, MA (617-871-9468)
By Glenn Rifkin
A talented group of Craigie on Main alums, led by chef Carl Dooley, has quickly established a destination location with The Table, an unassuming but mouthwatering eatery on Mass. Ave in North Cambridge. The tiny but intimate restaurant — just 20 seats — is already a tough reservation and as glowing reviews emerge, it will be a challenge to find a slot. But it is well worth the wait. This crew, under Top Chef contestant Dooley, along with sous chef Jon Heilman, pastry chef Mary Edinger, and general manager Evan Kaps, has created a nightly prix fixe menu that will win over the palates of the most finicky foodies.
Located within Season to Taste, a catering company, The Table was added by owner Robert Harris as a way to expand his culinary interests and provide a showcase for the creative and insatiably curious Dooley, who worked as chef de cuisine under renowned Craigie chef/owner Tony Maws. Dooley is a Cambridge native who spent his senior year in high school working at Formaggio Kitchen and reading cookbooks. Only 31, Dooley is clearly a rising star in the Boston food scene.
The menu at The Table is reworked nightly but the four-course dinner, for $65 per person, is a study in Dooley’s penchant for finding and combining fresh, provocative ingredients. His iconoclastic attitude results in a tasting menu that makes it nearly impossible to choose one dish over another.
On my first foray, Dooley did not disappoint. The evening was already special: a birthday dinner for my friend’s mom. Given that Jeff has been a close friend for 50 years and his wonderful mother didn’t know I would be the surprise guest, we were in a festive mood. The staff at The Table managed to elevate the evening to an unforgettable level, which is, after all, why we eat out.
The four of us ordered everything on the menu with the intention of sharing each dish. Before our first course, Dooley stepped from behind the counter of the open kitchen and served us an amuse bouche of beef tartare, nuoc cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce, peanuts, ginger and beech mushrooms.
Edinger’s delectable homemade semolina sourdough toast served with her own cultured butter set the tone for what was to come. The first course included a salad of Yellowfin Tuna and Persian cucumber, along with jalapeno, shiso and green apple. The other first course was a delectable terrine of foie gras confit served with braised rabbit, pickled rhubarb, and almonds.
Evenly paced, we punctuated the two-hour meal with a toast of champagne followed by a perfectly tailored white burgundy. The second course included a slow-cooked lamb short rib and sausage dish replete with artichoke Barigoule, pistachios, and yogurt. This was the highlight dish for me; a rush of flavors and textures that thrilled the senses.
The other second course, a California asparagus and andouille sausage, was served with a mix of Florida shrimp, pickled Fresno chile, and lemon breadcrumbs. It made me glad we were sharing.
The third course included a roasted chicken thigh and morel mushroom dish, served with a stew of cockscomb, English peas, and vin jaune, a mix of flavors that bespeak Dooley’s sense of style and taste.
I particularly enjoyed the glazed local hake with roasted carrot-chipotle salsa, crispy tortilla and cilantro (and I’m not a cilantro fan). The fish was cooked perfectly with a distinct tang created by the salsa.
If you could order just the desserts, it would be worth a visit. Edinger’s chilled rice pudding, served with passion fruit curd, mango, and caramelized coconut crispies, was amazing as was the special birthday chocolate banana parfait, with malt ice cream, salted peanuts, and crispy meringue. The combination of sweet and savory was ideally balanced and the chocolate to die for.
The restaurant offers a vegetarian menu along with snacks at a cozy counter area for $7 to $11.
Given that this stretch of Mass. Ave near the Arlington line is largely devoid of fine eateries (unless you adore Frank’s, the 1950’s style steakhouse), The Table is likely to provide a legion of fans with a reason to walk north from Porter Square.
Glenn Rifkin is a veteran journalist and author who has covered business for many publications including The New York Times for more than 25 years. Among his books are Radical Marketing and The Ultimate Entrepreneur. His efforts as an arts critic and food writer represent a new and exciting direction.