Theatrical Dinners Made at the Table
Tableside dining has made a comeback. This old tradition, which has its roots in European-style fine dining, is primarily associated with classic dishes like Caesar salad and carved roast beef, and flaming desserts like Bananas Foster or crêpes Suzette. Nowadays, many restaurants are adding a new twist by offering dishes not typically associated with tableside service, such as small plates, a hearty stew or even the use of a cart for things other than desserts or cheese. Tableside adds drama to the meal, and in a business setting, it can be the ideal icebreaker. The experience also encourages conversation, as many dishes are meant for two or can be shared amongst the table. Enjoy the tableside theatrics of slicing, dicing and saucing at the following restaurants.
10600 East Crescent Moon Drive, 480-515-5700, fourseasons.com
The Four Seasons’ new signature restaurant, Talavera, which offers a contemporary American menu from executive chef Mel Mecinas (who has studied under Joachim Splichal), has introduced several tableside dishes. For an appetizer of Wagyu beef tartare, olive oil and mustard crème fraîche are mixed into the raw beef in front of diners. An entrée of pan-seared John Dory fish is completed with a saffron shellfish broth poured from a French press. And you can end your meal on a dramatic note with the chocolate illusion dessert—a dome of dark chocolate is presented, then warm white-chocolate “soup” is poured over it, melting the chocolate and revealing a filling of passion-fruit panna cotta and chocolate cake inside.
Las Vegas, Nevada
3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South, 702-891-7925; joel-robuchon.com
This jewel-box space in the MGM Grand, decorated with Lalique vases and plush purple banquettes, offers diners an exceptional culinary experience. Dinner selections include a six-course tasting menu (nutmeg-flavored lobster ravioli, foie gras carpaccio), with carefully selected wine pairings. Tableside, the restaurant serves a dish called l’Épaule d’Agneau: braised lamb shoulder spiced with cumin and star anise, and served with semolina and black truffles. The dish is slow-cooked to preserve the juices, then presented to diners and carved. Another unusual tableside feature is the bread cart, wheeled over by a server and loaded with more than a dozen freshly baked treats, such as basil focaccia, rosemary brioche, olive baguettes and bacon-and-mustard bread.
29 North Street, 707-433-3311; cyrusrestaurant.com This elegant Sonoma County restaurant attracts serious gourmands eager to sample chef Douglas Keane’s creations, such as salt-cured foie gras, truffled red-wine risotto and bacon-wrapped pork loin with mascarpone polenta—not to mention the utterly decadent caviar-and-champagne cart. Diners can choose from five different types of caviar, artfully presented on ice, including wild Iranian osetra from the Caspian Sea, American paddlefish from Mississippi River tributaries and farm-raised California white sturgeon. This course comes with all the accoutrements—chopped egg, chives and crème fraîche—and the caviar is weighed and served tableside, along with a delicate mother-of-pearl spoon and a glass of champagne. There are certainly worse ways to start a meal.
New York, New York
85 10th Avenue, 212-497-8090; delposto.com The latest hotspot from celebrity chef Mario Batali (Babbo, Lupa) is this massive Italian restaurant on the edge of the Meatpacking District. In the center of the dining room is the “finishing table,” a custom-made marble-topped station equipped with burners, a small refrigerator, and storage drawers where dishes are sliced, deboned, sauced and plated after leaving the kitchen. The cacciucco, a hearty Tuscan fish stew, is finished here; as are several dishes for two, including monkfish with whole roasted black truffles, Dover sole with black trumpet mushrooms, the veal chop and the beef rib eye. At the end of the meal, several tableside carts offer cheese, chocolate and rum tastings. There’s also a complimentary cookie cart (the space formerly housed a Nabisco factory).
Here are some other restaurants offering tableside dining.
Los Angeles, California
6300 Hollywood Blvd., 323-871-8777; sbeent.com/katsuya
At this popular Japanese restaurant, try chef Katsuya Uechi’s baked whitefish with black truffles, which is presented tableside under a hard salt shell, then cracked open to reveal the moist fish dotted with slivers of truffle.
798 Main St., Cambridge, 617-876-8444; saltsrestaurant.com
Diners make the trip across the Charles River from Boston for this charming bistro’s signature dish of pan-roasted duck for two, which is carved tableside and served with roasted Brussels sprouts, pears and petite root vegetables.
1150 N. Dearborn St., 312-440-8888; ilmulino.comNew York’s beloved Italian restaurant now has several branches, including this one in the Windy City. Tableside dishes include rack of lamb with a Dijon mustard glaze, and desserts like zabaglione with fresh berries.
San Francisco, California
1751 Fulton Ave., 415-441-1751; polenglounge.com
At this Asian fusion restaurant, sample the Sizzling Sisig, pork marinated in coconut vinegar and fried with onions and peppers. When the sizzling plate is presented, an egg is cracked over the top and crunchy chicharrones (pork rinds) are added.
Charleston, South Carolina
225 E. Bay St., 843-266-4222; grill225.com
JILL FERGUS is a freelance writer in New York.