Monday, December 20, 2010

Art of the Table

Art of the Table is inspiring. The space is just about as small as a space in any hole-in-the-wall, except instead of getting delicious hole-in-the-wall food, you get delicious hole-in-the-wall new American food.

The changing menu centers around local, sustainable, and organic food inspired by ingredients that Chef Dustin Ronspies sees and picks out at farmer's markets every week. Though the chef is classically trained in French cooking, you could never tell by the variety of preparations and flavors you get here.

Art of the Table is open four days a week: Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Mondays are what the restaurant calls Happy Mondays.

Basically, it's their take on a Monday night happy hour from 5:00pm to 10:00pm. The menu features a list of small plates that could easily be a shared seven-course meal for two. I shared this meal with Yelp's Steph C. and her Michael Cera look-alike boyfriend.

The first bite we had from this restaurant was of a Caramelized Onion, Pancetta, Parsley, and Whipped Chevre on Toast. The sweet caramelized onions got heavier with the crispy pancetta, but balanced out with the well-toasted base and the sharp whipped chevre. Each bite left a smartly placed hint of parsley.

The Cauliflower Puree, Caramelized Cauliflower, and Green Onion was my favorite dish of the night. The cauliflower puree was silky in consistency and accented with robust flavors from the roasted bits of cauliflower. The olive oil drizzle, pepper, and green onion garnish all helped to better feature what could have been a boring bowl of cauliflower puree. This, if you were wondering, was what inspired me to do a cauliflower soup for Thanksgiving dinner.

The next two courses were typical Northwestern dishes that showcased fresh, local ingredients.

The Red Romaine, Treviso, Golden Beets, Salmon Gravlax, Zucchini, Cucumber, and Pepitas with a Dijon Vinaigrette was light and refreshing. The golden beets were heaven, and the rest of the greens helped to add some texture to the salad. The salmon fell apart in my mouth and left a subtle hint of dill to add to the mountain of flavors under the salmon.

The Eggplant & Pepper Roulade, Olive Oil-Poached Tomatoes, Feta, and Arugula Cream was similar in that it was extremely refreshing. The poached tomatoes exploded in the way tomatoes should, and went well with the playful eggplant and pepper roulade. The more prominent flavors of the roulade mixed well with the strong feta, which were both calmed down by the arugula cream. The arugula cream, eaten alone, was pretty darn delicious, but it really brightened up when eaten with the poached tomatoes.

The meal progressed nicely with the Milk & Caper-Braised Pork, Polenta, Oven-Roasted Tomato, Greens, and Fennel, which did just the trick to complement the earlier, lighter dishes. The polenta was creamy, the roasted greens melted in my mouth, and the braised pork fell apart with each forkful. Though texturally deficient, the heaviness of the entire dish was much needed after the previous courses.

The Crispy Black Cod, Corn, Chanterelle, and Delicate Squash Fricasse with Duck Broth was probably the least spectacular dish of the night. The squash fricassee with duck broth were amazing, but a bit salty, and the chanterelles, of course, were awesome. The corn, however, seemed a bit displaced, and the cod was unfortunately dried out.

The final item of the night was the Olive Oil Cake, Poached Peach, Huckleberry Ice Cream, and Candied Hazelnuts. The poached pear was pear-fection. The huckleberry ice cream was addictive. The in-season huckleberries sprinkled on top were fresh. The olive oil cake was good, but a little dry. Eaten all together, the components built a perfectly light dessert to follow two heavy dishes. I thought that this dish might be too sweet because of the extra sugar sifted on everything, but it was just about right. The bits of candied hazelnut added a nice seasonal crunch to an otherwise soft dish.

The Supper Clubs on Thursday through Saturday evenings are much more intimate.

There is only one seating at 7:00pm, for maybe 20 people, and goes until 10:00pm. Visibly excited and sometimes muttering, Chef Dustin Ronspies hits a small gong at the beginning of every course to describe each of his pieces of art.

Supper started with an amuse of Geoduck Ceviche with Celery, Radish, Cilantro, House-Preserved Lemon, and Olive Oil. I love ceviche, and this was probably the best ceviche I've had to date. The flavors were the cleanest and simplest of the night, with the geoduck's flavor still shining through a strong house-preserved lemon. This was a great precursor to the rest of the meal.

The first course was a Shrimp & Scallop "Po' Boy" with a Celeriac-Apple Remoulade, Pumpernickel Toast, Parsley Pistou, and Parsnip Chips. The seafood was cooked perfectly, with a beautiful sear on the scallop. The remoulade was addictive with sweet apples balancing with mellow celery. The parsnip chips were just as addictive and were nice and light. I don't know if I would call this a Po' Boy, but I guess that's why it's in quotations.

Second was the Mussels with Smoked Tomato & Roasted Pepper Broth, Leeks, and Kale. This is the first and only time I've finished a broth before finishing the mussels in a mussel dish. The smoked tomato was reminiscent of a tasty chipotle, with even more smokiness from the roasted peppers. I could drink a bucket-full of this broth if I had the chance. The leeks and kale were also a nice way to balance out the smokey broth when eaten with the plump mussels. Delicious.

Next was a palate cleanser. They brought out a sorbet, garnished with cilantro, but didn't explain what was in the sorbet. Instead, they asked everyone to guess the sorbet's flavor. A strong chipotle flavor came through, which balanced well with the sweetness of what tasted like apricot. The chef later revealed the sorbet as an Apricot, Peach, Chipotle, and Cilantro Sorbet. Success! Well, I didn't get the peach, but close enough. If my post-scarfing picture of the sorbet is any indication of how tasty it was, then you can probably guess that it was pretty darn good.

The palate cleanser was an excellent way to refresh your tongue, reminisce on the smokiness of the mussel broth, and hint at the peach flavor in the dessert.

But before dessert came the Steelhead Trout, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Roasted Cauliflower Puree, Caramelized Cauliflower, Gnocchi, and a Red Wine Reduction. I've said it many times before, but chanterelles will get me to love just about any dish, and this was no exception. The trout was cooked beautifully. Unlike the cod I had at the Happy Monday, this trout was very crispy on the outside, but extremely soft on the inside. The roasted cauliflower puree and caramelized cauliflower reminded me of the cauliflower puree from the Happy Monday, which is definitely a good thing. I thought the gnocchi wasn't going to make sense with the rest of the dish, but when I saw that they were pan seared, I realized just how well they went together with the other components of the dish. The red wine reduction was strong, but not overpowering, and was smartly drizzled sparingly on the plate.

The final course was a dessert very similar to the Happy Monday olive oil cake.

The Almond Brown Butter Financier, Poached Peach, Hazelnut Flour, and Huckleberry-Plum Ice Cream rounded off the night perfectly. The ice cream this time around had a nice subtle tartness and the poached pear had the same rich sweetness of its Happy Monday counterpart. The financier, like the olive oil cake, was a little bit dry, but flavor-wise, mixed well with the peach and ice cream. In the end, I found myself just eating the ice cream with the peach and some hazelnut flour crumbs for a nice nutty flavor and texture. Ice cream? Delicious. Hazelnut flour? I didn't realize that existed, but delicious. Ice cream with hazelnut flour? Incredible.

Supper Club had a higher percentage of success than Happy Monday, but whether you go for a Happy Monday or a Supper Club, expect a showcase of local, fresh ingredients, prepared in a way that brings light to perfect flavor combinations, and built to create a thoughtful and satisfying meal progression.

Art of the Table
1054 N 39th St
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 282-0942

GET: The Menu.


  1. Hahaha Michael Cera. Also pear-fection. Well played. I agree the cauliflower soup was the best dish of the night, and I want the geoduck ceviche. LOVE geoduck.

  2. I'm really excited to try La Cevicheria. Hahaha.


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