Friday, November 15, 2013

Morgantown Edition: Table 9

Table 9Table 9Table 9 replaced The Wharf in - wait for it - the Wharf District. I now work in the Wharf District, so any new restaurants are openly welcomed. Because it is so close, I ended up going here four times total before getting around to writing this review. Four. Not on purpose - just happened that way. So I probably have a fairly well-rounded take on this place.

The interior is nice, with some cool colors and a neat ceiling. Two sitting areas bookend the restaurant, and art dons the walls. They have a huge viewing area, so you can watch as people walk the rail trail, and they have local beer available - so that's cool.

My first visit was just for happy hour when we realized they opened and couldn't wait to try it. I ordered a Chestnut Brew Works Nate's Nut Brown Ale - lovely. Absolutely lovely. A co-worker ordered a few of their snacks:

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  • Table 9Garlic aioli and Sriracha fries - exactly what you'd think. Fries with a little hot sauce. The garlic aioli was nice, and there was a pretty good size serving here for the $5.
  • Devils on horseback, pepper jam - probably the most creative snack we had. But because we split them up among six people when there were only three, it's hard to get a real good taste of it. It was a date with chocolate and bacon. I appreciate the creativity but wasn't a huge fan of the execution. $6.
  • Fried ricotta, roasted tomato jam, garlic olive oil - my favorite of the trio. But who doesn't like fried cheese? I really liked the tomato jam it was sitting on.
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Table 9Second Visit: We went for lunch. Their lunch menu has a list of regular sandwiches, and the dinner focuses more on tapas - small plates that you share. The lunch menu has some salads a few different standard sandwiches, nothing that really jumps out at me: hot Italian sandwich, BBQ pulled pork sandwich, a pulled pork sandwich (sans bbq, but instead with onions and swiss), a fried fish sandwich, grilled chicken, skirt steak, buffalo chicken, roasted turkey, grilled cheese and burgers. They also have specials written on a chalkboard-type of wall in front of the kitchen.

The one that was the most different to me was the pulled pork sandwich. Mostly because I haven't really seen a pulled pork sandwich that wasn't slathered in BBQ. Nope - this one had pickled red onions, Swiss, cilantro aioli and ciabatta.I opted for the side salad rather than fries.

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But this is where things took a turn for the worse for me here.

I was with about five or six of my coworkers, and my friend Tony and I received our plates first. We waited patiently while the other members of our party waited to receive their plates. I adjusted my sandwich to get the best light. We continued to wait. A few minutes passed, and a waiter who was on his way to another table said he knew he made a mistake. I looked at my plate, and I thought it could've been what I ordered, but didn't pay it much attention. Then, the waiter picks up my plate and my coworker's plate and delivers them to another table.

I kind of sat there in disbelief. Oh no. I think I touched that sandwich. I think I touched that sandwich that is now going to an unsuspecting patron. After that plate sat in front of me for about five minutes. This wasn't - oh, set the plate down, realize mistake, pick it back up. This sat in front of me - unsupervised - for minutes. I was just thinking, man, if the waiter picked up another plate from another table and gave it to me, I'd be furious.

Yes, they're new. Yes, they're learning. But this is basic, basic stuff. I'm not in food service, but I've eaten at restaurants and could tell you I'd be pissed if I was served a meal from another table. That's weird. And gross. And worrisome.

Sigh.

Table 9But I ate my sandwich, and it wasn't bad. I actually liked it. But I couldn't get over the service. What else do they do back in the kitchen that I'm NOT seeing? I just don't like that. It bothers me.

Credit to them for doing a pulled pork sandwich in a different manner. I appreciated the cheese and pickled red onions were awesome. The garlic sauce on top was pretty good, too. It didn't blow my mind, but it was an OK lunch sandwich. The salad's house white balsamic dressing was kind of flavorless. Oily. But not in a good way.

Table 9Third time: WHY did I go back a third time? Well, because we're strapped for lunch options in this area. OR, I'm a glutton for punishment. Probably the latter. I went in a different direction and tried the cheddar burger. I also got the fries this time.

Burger was ordered medium well. But it really ended up being well-done and dry. They also mixed up two of my coworkers' orders, who also got burgers.

Anyway. Burger was not the kind of quality I thought it would be. Maybe because juice and flavor had been cooked out, but it didn't have a lot of flavor. Dare I say, it could've been frozen? Just not anything I'd expect at a restaurant - from my freezer, perhaps. But not a huge fan. And the fries were okay - they had some sort of different seasoning that I couldn't place. But another coworker had a totally different type of fry. Confused.

Fourth trip: Dinner. Finally went for dinner this time with two good friends for a celebration. And it was a much different experience. First of all, the menu items are much more creative and different. They are much more expensive, though. Too expensive. I'll do a quick run-down of all the different things we ordered:

Snacks:
-Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Hollandaise $5

Small Plates:
-Blackened Tuna, Picked Cucumbers, Corn, Radish, Horseradish $15
-Prince Edward Mussels, Bloody Mary Mix, Celery, Tomato, Hot Sauce $13
-Grilled Lamb, Salted Yogurt, Eggplant, Zucchini, Red Pepper, Pickled Red Onions $14
-Pan Seared Filet, Roasted Cauliflower, Chimichurri9, Pea Tendrils $15
-Scallops and Risotta (special of the day)  $18

Desserts:
-Olive Oil Cake, Blackberries, Whipped Goat Cheese, Salted Almonds $5
-Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Pear, Mint, Almond $5

Table 9We each ordered a couple different small plates and passed them around. If you're looking to get a full tummy, this probably isn't your place. If you're looking to try something a little different and share the experience with all your friends, this may be more your style. The small plates on the menu get heavier as you make your way toward the bottom.

But by heavier, it doesn't really mean you're going to be full. I had a little bit of everything, but I was still kind of hungry when I left. I wasn't starving, but I didn't feel totally full, and that feels like robbery when you drop $50 on a meal and you still want more.

Table 9However, I appreciate the creativity that goes into this. We had the devils on horseback, since I didn't really get much of a taste of them before. I'm still not super crazy about them. It's an odd gummy texture with the date plus lots of dark chocolate, which overtook the flavor and a piece of bacon. If the bacon had been extra salty and crisp, I think it would've done wonders. Because otherwise it's this odd mixture of mush. The pepper jelly on the bottom was lovely, though, and there definitely needs to be more of that.

The Brussels sprouts - tasty. Vicki discovered she actually likes Brussels sprouts. Instead of a sulfur taste you can get with a not-so-great batch, these were like mini cabbages, fresh, buttery and with a touch of lemon.

Table 9The Tuna was one of the standouts, I think. The spice rub was flavorful, and the thick chunk of tuna was of good quality. Not mushy. Fresh, somehow. The bits of cucumber, corn and radish on top added a cool, sweet flavor.

The mussels weren't bad, but I'm not a huge mussel fan. Brittany discovered she loves mussels. The sauce was this sort of marinara, bloody mary mix, so it was different. Just not my exact  cup of tea, though the others raved about it. 

Table 9Brittany's grilled lamb was good, but it was pretty rare. I appreciated the yogurt sauce, which made it like this deconstructed gyro. It was a thicker portion than some of the other dishes, so that's nice, too. And it had a side of the pickled red onions, which I loved.

Table 9The filet was cooked much, much better than my burger. It's like they knew what medium meant this time. The inconsistency worries me, but at least there was a little bit more flavor this time. It still needed some extra spice - I don't want to have to rely totally on the sauce to get that extra flavor. The meat  should have a little bit more going for it. But the quality was better than the burger.

Scallops and risotta. For $18, I got three scallops. If they were divine, this might not be an issue. They were good. But three? Three? Meh. I get the idea of tapas, and I like it, really. But if you want people to buy multiple dishes, they need to be cheaper than $18. The scallops were seared nicely. The risotto left a little something to be desired. It had this gravy flavor, almost, instead of lighter taste.

Table 9One thing that kind of bothered me was that service was just kind of clunky. Our waitress was nice, but they kept switching out plates for "courses" - which there aren't any courses. Just bring everything out at once. They're all teeny tiny. So I had plates switched at least three times, which was annoying. It was awkward and clunky and slow, and we were trying to have a conversation. Then they'd place the plates like off to the side. I just kind of wanted them to set the plates at the end of the table and let me do it. Goodness.

When it comes down to it, I'm not a huge fan of the lunch. It's mediocre, plain and uninventive. And service always seem to be an ordeal. Dinner was a much better experience because I enjoyed trying a little of everything, and it was more of an adventure, rather than a meal. But the prices are just entirely too steep. I enjoyed my experience at dinner, but I still had a snack when I left because when it came down to it, I had four small strips of filet, three scallops and a bite or two of other things. The waitress suggested ordering about two dishes because their small plates are 4 oz. I did, but if you want me to order more than that, prices need to come down. I've had scallop dishes with more substance for $18. Make this happen.

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Table 9I want to mention that Vicki finished off their bottle of Mossback Pinot Noir and loved it - all three glasses at $10 each.

Oh, there was dessert! Panna Cotta, which was so light and fluffy with some pear, mint, almond and candied apples. It was pretty good. And for $5, it was less offensive.

Table 9The olive oil cake was deconstructed with blackberries, whipped goat cheese and salted almonds. They even smeared a caramel "Congrats" in the dish, which was really quite sweet. The cake wasn't super flavorful, but the tart berries and goat cheese made up for it.

I think some of the kinks may get worked out. But for it to succeed, prices really need to come down. And you know me, I'm willing to pay money for good food. I like the creativity and I like the experience, but it's too pricey to make a full meal.

Grade: B
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