Report: Table in Ballantyne area of Charlotte
I found myself in the Ballantyne Area of Charlotte last week. Ballantyne, a conference-dependent resort hotel, looks like a minimally-adorned French Chateau that was airlifted and then dropped next to the Interstate. If you build it, they will come, and they did: Golf course, corporate park, restaurants and shopping. As a fellow conference attendee commented, "a major act of deforestation occurred here." Or as Sinatra may have put it, "Oops there goes another long leaf pine." One of the high-end strip malls across eight lanes from Ballantyne, and notable for an art installation that reminds one of an air traffic control, contains the restaurant Table. I ate there for dinner with a friend.
Table has very peculiar decor. The dominant colors are white, pink, and gray. The chairs would not be out of place in a Florida retirement home. The dining area is dominated by a "waterfall" of those long plastic strands of white blinking lights. There is plenty of transparent beading throughout the restaurant, particularly on the railings and banister. I think they were going for art deco, but came up with Del Boca Vista meets Michael's Arts & Crafts.
While the room was suspect, the meal was anything but. One of Table's features is a long marble altar, there's no other way to describe it, in the middle of the restaurant, where a chef prepares a variety of cold tapas plates. Perched at our balcony table, we could watch her in action.
We started with the tapas, ordering deviled quail eggs (bite-sized and delicious) and goat-cheese stuffed peppadew peppers (another bite-sized burst of flavor). Table offers about a dozen cheeses, and we tried the Humboldt Fog, which came with homemade crackers, fig and apricot preserves, dried fruit, and nuts. I have had Humboldt Fog before, and I would encourage you to seek it out "where finer cheeses are sold." It has a soft, creamy, and tangy center, but it also has an ashy exterior. The ash provides almost a cigarette aftertaste. (That's pure speculation as I've never smoked a cigarette, but I base that not only on the taste, but on the original, since discontinued, name of the cheese -- Winston Cheese Whiz.)
The cold plates behind us, we moved to the hot, where we split lobster and crab cakes with a citrus beurre blanc and basil oil. It was a testament to the excellent service we received that, without prompting, the server had the kitchen divide this appetizer onto two plates. The cake was yummy, all seafood and no filler. The sauce complemented without overpowering the dish.
On to entrees: My friend had the "Tasting of Ribeye" - pan-seared center cut filet and barbeque-spiced top steak over a warm purple fingerling potato salad and sugar snap peas and finished with a red wine reduction. I had the "Surf and Turf" - Butter-Poached Lobster and Citrus-Braised Angus Short Rib over pommes pont neuf and baby bok-choy finished with reduced braising juices, orange segments and crisp frisee. What can I say, I'm a sucker for short ribs. Both entrees were excellent, perfectly cooked and elegantly presented. My short ribs were succulent and tender. I don't typically seek out lobster, but this was a nice marriage. I snagged a slice of my friend's top steak when he excused himself from the table, and liked the medium-intensity of the BBQ spice.
Desserts did not disappoint either. According to our waiter, one of their pastry chefs is on loan from Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and he was featuring a tasting of chocolate. I ordered it and it came with the meticulous presentation that earned Charlie Trotter his reputation: a miniature German chocolate cake, a tee pee of milk chocolate mousse with a hint of salt, an egg of rich dark chocolate mousse, and a miniature mug of white chocolate rice pudding. Wow! And I wonder why I ran 20:34 two days later. My friend had bananas foster, and we watched as the chef at the altar flamed them in the traditional style. The bananas came stacked and caramelized perfectly alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Bottom line: Don't let the dining room scare you away. The food at Table is superb.