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Table 8

table 8.jpg

  • Cuisine: Contemporary American
  • Vibe: Clubby chic
  • Occasion: Group dinner, casual date, scene-y supper
  • Don’t Miss: Rabbit sausage, scallops on wilted spinach, baby chicken
  • Price: Appetizers, $9; entrees, $24; dessert, $9
  • Reservations: Highly recommended
  • Phone: (212) 475-3400
  • Location: 25 Cooper Square, between Fifth and Sixth Sts.

 

On a busy night at Table 8, it’s easier to get a drink in the rest
room than the dining room. Instead of handing out hand towels, the
restroom attendant pours Prosecco.

It’s not the best of times for
diners or restaurants, but considering how hard it was to get a
reservation, Table 8 seems to be doing just fine. The first time I
­tasted Govind Armstrong’s cooking was at a Mediterranean restaurant called Chadwick’s in Beverly Hills over five years ago. That’s where he first came up with the concept for Table 8 and its casual California cuisine.

He opened the first outpost in Los Angeles, followed by a second branch in ­Miami and now New York.  New York’s ­Table 8 is tucked inside the newly minted Cooper Square Hotel — a slick, futuristic glass structure in the Bowery district just on the edge of St. Marks Place.

To
get to the restaurant, guests have to walk through a dark, dark hotel
bar with a vaulted black-tile ceiling, marble bar and midnight black
couches.

The dining room looks and feels warmer than both the bar
and exterior suggest: a brown ­leather wall with matching chairs, glass
walls with frosted landscapes, bookshelves and an outside dining area.
There’s a long, communal “salt bar” with a meat slicer and elevated bar
stools that runs through the center of it all.

The first part of the menu is devoted to the salt bar selection — small plates of house-cured meats and fish crudo.

All
of the homemade charcuterie offerings are excellent — the duck
­prosciutto, venison bresaola with blue cheese, a creamy country pork
terrine and especially the rabbit sausage. I could’ve eaten an
entrée-sized portion of this warm, sweet rabbit sausage served with
intense black truffle salt.

However, I’d skip the fish crudo altogether. All three miss. Both
the scallops with kumquats and the striped bass cara cara orange were
flavor-free. As for the fluke, it’s amazing how much havoc a dab of
Thai chili can wreak on raw fluke.

Unfortunately, the portions
are really small at Table 8 and, too often, so are the flavors. The
homemade linguine needed something more than a sparse scattering of
parsley, lemon, ricotta and breadcrumbs to taste anything more than
average.

The pan-­roasted duck was upstaged by the sunchokes,
hazelnut purée and kumquats that accompanied it. And an entree of
halibut with ­marinated tomatoes, fava beans and smoked halibut toast
fell flat.

When I go out to dinner, I want to forget what I’m
talking about when I take a bite of something wonderful. The only
dishes that came close to distracting me were an appetizer of sautéed
scallops over wilted spinach and the grilled baby chicken served
alongside a red wine-braised short rib hash and cipollini jus.

The best dessert on the menu was a coffee parfait layered with hazelnut streusel, malt ice cream and candied kumquats.

The
cocktails are summery and perfect for sipping on the outdoor dining
patio. There’s a mellow, gin-based “Southside” with muddled mint and
lime, and a great cocktail called “the Basil” — a mix of vodka, muddled
green grapes, basil, bitters and ginger soda. It’s a shame it’s so hard
to track down a server to order one.

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