Restaurants & Bars

DAT: Tablespoon

Cary | Jan 7, 2006 02:14 AM

I've heard of Tablespoon, but never went because there were other intriguing restaurants to go. But with DAT this month, it seems like a relative bargain because usually starters are in the $8-16 range, and main dishes in the $17.50-25 range.

DAT dinner menu:

Dungeness Crab salad (Celery root, artichokes, and shisho)
or
Smoked Venison Carpaccio (Pickled papaya, satsuma mandarins, and frisee)

Seared Wild steelhead salmon (wild mushroom, lentils, and sherry pepper sauce)
or
Oven roasted pork tenderloin (Roast brussels sprouts & root vegetables, pork jus)

Chocolate Fudge cake (tarragon ice cream)
or
Pumpkin cheesecake (Huckleberry compote)

My date and I both got the DAT menu but we ordered opposite items so that we could sample everything on the menu.

Starting off:

Parking can be annoying in the area, so unless you get lucky and find a space, you may spend quite a bit of time circling the blocks to find a spot. There is a public lot apparently on pacific and polk, but we must have missed it. I gave up and just got the valet parking at the restaurant Pasha on Polk ($10, but there are times when you just give up finding parking you know?)

Our res was at 6:30 and the tables were half full then, which is understandable since most people get a later start. By the time we left,most of the tables were full and the bar was buzzing with activity.

We were sat somewhat near the back. I thought there was plenty of space between tables, but my date didn't. Of course I'm used to the sardine-packed tables of Chapeau, so the one-foot distance between tables seemed acceptable.

Wine list: was a letter sized paper on two sides. They helpfully seperate the wines into "styles" like "elegant", "earthy", "bold" to help diners pair with the food. This can be helpful to many diners. There are some selections by the glass and half bottles. Full bottles range from $35 to $80+ with good, interesting selections for all varietals. I ended with the 2002 Cold Heaven Pinot Noir, which was a typical CA pinot: focused on the jammy fruit. Not as silky or aromatic as Oregon or Burgundies can be. But still, a good CA pinot.

Okay so for the food:
The Dungeness crab salad was pretty good. Nothing stupendous, but the crab was fresh (which shouldn't be surprising for this area) and plentiful.

My smoked venison carpaccio was very good in my opinion. Light smoked aroma, thinly sliced, which matched well with the citrusy "satsuma madarins) and pickled papaya. My date didn't like the venison as much, but she said that maybe she just didn't like venison that much.

The steelhead salmon was moist and well cooked, but it was just, well, well cooked salmon-trout hybrid. I really liked the sauce of wild mushrooms and lentils. Of course that was because it was "monte au beurre" (finshed with butter) for that rich, smooth taste.

My pork tenderloin I thought was really good. Cooked so it was a bit pink, and moist. I think the brussel sprouts though can be difficult to accept for some people. I like brussel sprouts (properly cooked) but it s taste can make it difficult to pair with wine (ala asparagus). I enjoyed the root vegetables which included baby carrots and other tubers I don't remember.

Desserts: The (dark) chocolate fudge cake, I thought was good. Pretty typical from 3-star restaurants. But good. Not too sweet, in my opinion. My date thought it was too sweet though. The ice cream scoop that came with it was really "light." It almost seemed like a heavy whipped cream, or a really light mousse.

The pumpkin cheesecake was good, but I didn't like how the huckleberry compote (read: jam) went with it, so I kind of scraped off the compote and ate the cheesecake plain.

Portion sizes were good. Not too much, not too little.

Service wise, there were only a few hiccups, but for me they are not deal breakers: 1) during wine service, the waitress spilled some drops of wine on the tablecloth. 2)The bus boy cleared the butter while I was tearing a slice of bread from the breadtray.
Not big deals, but stuff you may notice.
Also the dishes used for the appetizers were black, so we could see (it seeemed like) "residue" or "splotches" from improperly cleaned dishes. Again, not a deal breaker, since I enjoyed my venison.

As I looked at the tables around me, it seemed that most of the tables ordered the DAT, and it is a good bargain compared to the normal menu. You'll save at least $5-10 depending on what you order. The DAT selections are user-friendly (salmon, pork, chocolate cake) and worth a try.

Would I go back if there weren't a DAT menu? Yes, but there are many other restaurants I haven't been to yet.

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