After a lengthy construction period, The Kitchen Table just opened on Castro the other day and we stopped in for lunch.
The decor is dominated by a palette of browns, on the walls, in various textures, and the tables. It has a certain elegance, not exactly casual, but not stiffly formal, either. The dishes and silverware are distinctively shaped. They've put some effort into creating a certain ambience here. We'll see how it plays out as things wear in. Not much of a crowd was there the other day. The menu has Jewish and Middle Eastern dishes along with some characteristic California things and influences. Or is it that it's a California place with Jewish and Middle Eastern influences? Just to be clear, this is not a Jewish deli, though one can find pastrami, corned beef (at lunch), matzo ball soup and knishes, along with all sorts of other things. At lunch, they've also got burgers, salads, yam fries, a variety of appetizers and sandwiches. One could pursue the Jewish side of things or completely ignore it and probably come away happy with the choices.
That said, we went the deli route, splitting a pastrami sandwich, getting a couple of bowls of matzo ball soup and a "curry brined" eggplant appetizer.
The eggplant came firm, but not resistant with hints of curry flavoring and a fermented style briny flavor. It had the texture and taste of herring to no small degree. I'm going to assume that this was an intentional play on tradition by the chef. Thumbs up. It worked.
Then came the soup. The bowl looks big. The shape of the rim is such that one side arcs to maybe five inches high, where the other side is maybe half that. So it's not really that much soup. $5. The broth was rich and dark, slightly peppery, delicious. I'm pretty sure that some of the color was from turmeric and there were other curry flavors, as well. The matzo balls were light and consistent.
The pastrami came with a choice of sides, slaw, fries or something else. We took the slaw. The modest amount of meat was sliced thinner than on any pastrami sandwich I can recall eating. It curled up like ribbon. The waiter told me that they cure the meat in house. I don't know the source of it, though. I found it kind of salty and that dominated my impressions other than the thinness. My wife was more comfortable with it, though. The slaw was fresh and simple, more milky than oily, though I assume that there wasn't actually milk in it, way too cold when it was served, so that the flavor wasn't really distinguishable. I let it sit for awhile and ate it later. The flavor was less lively than what else we ate.
We didn't eat dessert, but what we saw looked pretty lavish.
So it was hit and miss, not bad and not surprising for the first day.
It seems like they're interested in serving creative versions of standard dishes, Jewish and otherwise, using fresh ingredients in a California vein. This alone, sets them apart from most of the rest of what's on Castro, where efforts to take advantage of our region's bounty of fresh and high quality produce and other things don't tend to exist in any serious way. I'm curious to see where things go. I'll go back in a few weeks and try dinner or at least another lunch or two.
The Kitchen Table
142 Castro St
Mountain View, CA 94041