By Patrick O’Dowd
The New York Times recently revisited Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin, reaffirming the restaurant’s four-star rating. The writers over at the culture blog The Awl took note of a trend in the reviews: the critics adored the restaurant but always managed to pick out one little dish or detail that was just off. Of course, that makes sense. Nothing is perfect, but their critiques of Mr. Ripert’s establishment border on objective journalism parody. For example, the Time’s former food critic Frank Bruni wrote, “You may encounter preparations at Le Bernardin with less ostentatious complexity than you expect.” Translation?: You will be let down by the hype I helped create.” This past review, it was the bread.
That’s all to say, that I’m entirely sympathetic to the plight of critics like those at the Times. They work for a journalistic institution with hefty standards, but food and food writing is an emotional affair at its best. As a result, critics end up writing “reviews” like those above.
This issue of staid institutionality is not one I’m burdened by, and if I wrote anything other than a big wet kiss of an opinion on my Table 310 brunch experience, I would just be lying.
Lexington, Ky’s Table 310 has been around for a while now but it continues to be one of the most consistently evolving restaurants we have in this town. Not only has the restaurant gone through a series of “phases” in its development, its menu has been one defined by forward motion with dishes coming and going at a near equal rate. Having recently reached what would have appeared to be the end of its phased roll out, Table 310’s Krim Boughalem has now introduced brunch service to the restaurant’s repertoire with chef Brian Surbaugh at the kitchen’s helm and like just about everything else the team on 310 W. Short St. has done, the result is a distinctly pleasant addition to downtown Lexington.
One of Table 310’s greatest strengths is the space itself, particularly the building’s wide front glass doors that, when open, create a nearly seamless boundary between inside and out. The new brunch service hours (Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-3pm) played well with the restaurants airy feel on the early summer morning and I suspect that the restaurant will draw in a fair number of the weekend’s farmers market shoppers. Those same shoppers will also be pleased to note on the bottom of the brunch menu the list of local farmers where Table 310 draws its ingredients, some of which are the same as those selling just a block down from the restaurant’s doors.
The brunch menu itself seems a logical extension of the restaurant’s ever changing dinner menu: good simple food, evolved. Eggs Benedict—a staple of brunches the world over— tops the rundown with its spicy hollandaise sauce but beneath it on the menu is the croque madame covered in a rich béchamel sauce that resembles a Kentucky hot brown as much as anything which—to coin a phrase—is a very good thing. Likewise, the breakfast tart, the smoked salmon crostini, and the salad of local greens, fruit, and a champagne vinaigrette that comes with many of dishes were all equally terrific.
Yet, the stars of the menu were the champagne and rose water waffles as well as the duck fat-fried potatoes. If beauty can best be found in the extremes, then that would explain the draw of these two items. Surrounded by a deep red blood orange syrup, Nutella, and bruléed banana sentries, the quartered champagne and rose water waffle is a looker that appears to be as much a breakfast item as it does one of Table 310’s pastry chef Stella Parks’ knockout desserts. The other star is decidedly less glitzy but equally unavoidable. The duck fat-fried potatoes may be the home-fries of this brunch menu but they are dangerously delicious and their earthy, fatty-richness may turnout to be a reliable cure for any lingering weekend morning health issues.
Beyond that, Table 310’s bar is in full swing so anyone seeking further curative remedies may find a mimosa just what the doctor ordered. For the rest, there are cappuccinos and espresso shots that are as good as you’ll find in any cafe. And it should be said that these and all of the items on the menu come quite approachably priced for what you get.
It seems reasonable to presume that the brunch menu will evolve over the summer not unlike Table 310’s dinner lineup does—my hopes are for a take on oatmeal—and while brunch service may be only the next evolutionary step in the restaurants steady forward motion, the effect is evidence that one of downtown Lexington’s best eateries will only continue to get even better.
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