Chef-owner Derek Bray finishes a plate in the dinning room of his restaurant, The Table, on Sixth Avenue in Tacoma on Monday. Peter Haley Staff photographer
Chef-owner Derek Bray finishes a plate in the dinning room of his restaurant, The Table, on Sixth Avenue in Tacoma on Monday. Peter Haley Staff photographer

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Tacoma’s The Table proves a worthy destination in second taste

November 19, 2015 8:01 PM

Unfurling deep into the dining room is a stunning wood high-top table with room for 20.

That huge dining room anchor is the namesake for The Table, Sixth Avenue’s newest fine dining addition.

The 68-seat restaurant opened in July, serving happy hour and dinner.

Chef-owner Derek Bray made The Table convivial by design, with the showpiece promoting communal dining, something unusual in Tacoma.

It’s a terrific companion restaurant to neighboring restaurant Marrow, an upscale eatery with a focus, like The Table, on a menu of handmade food. While The Table exudes the air of a fine Northwest bistro, Marrow is its adventurous and experimental neighbor.

Like Marrow, The Table carries the modern Northwest-industrial look that’s popular at the moment, with dangling naked bulbs unspooling from wooden ladder fixtures. Concrete floors and wood tables, made from salvaged fir beams, carry a casual air. It’s at once attractive and comfortable.

Open shelving holds cooking tools, cookbooks, bottles of wine and dangling wine glasses, almost mimicking the working comfort of a home kitchen. Look just beyond the bar to see another showpiece, a chef’s table that could easily also be the namesake of the restaurant.

There, find Bray or sous chef Jonathan Tram wielding long tweezers dropping garnish onto modestly fussed-over plates of duck, elk, cod, housemade sausage and modern Northwest bistro dishes with the occasional Mediterranean, Asian or regional American accent.

Checking in on The Table since its opening, I paid four anonymous visits spaced a month or more apart. A restaurant’s most critical period is its first six months, and I’d say Bray and crew should feel proud of their introduction to Tacoma.

That’s not to say the restaurant was perfect. I found service on one visit flustered, with long waits between courses, without explanation. Seasoning occasionally missed its mark, leaving me wishing for a salt shaker. Two dishes left me wanting, with one a flub and the other carrying an underperforming side. The restaurant’s ear-piercing noise at full capacity on one visit made conversation irritating.

Looking beyond the restaurant’s noise, which Bray is working on, if all I can truly complain about is seasoning, a flustered server and two off dishes out of 17 sampled, the restaurant has few improvements to make. I recommend The Table with few qualms.

The menu was themed surf-and-turf here, emphasis on the turf (sorry, vegetarians). The menu changes with the season — a new one debuted last week — which is why some dishes described here no longer are listed and prices might be different.

Seared duck breast ($32), sliced into medallions, arrived medium rare, the meat jacketed in an unctuous layer of fat, atop broad strips of kale and a pool of salty malt jus. Housemade lamb sausage ($21) was finely textured, lean sausage yielding peppery heat with sweet corn grits, goat cheese cheddar, and a tart cherry jam relish.

For those craving a hunk of meat, if faced with a choice between elk sirloin ($28) or a hanger steak ($32), opt for the delicious latter, because the former was an unwieldy brick that bordered on leathery, as tough to cut as it was to chew (Bray said he changed his source for the steak). The hanger steak, flanked by a Thanksgiving-worthy sweet potato gratin and whole-grain mustard sauce, needed more seasoning, but carried that assertive beefiness I love in a hanger cut, and was well grilled.

Bray did a fine job with upscale burgers. On the happy hour menu, an a la carte burger ($14) arrived piled onto a sturdy bun with a hearty-textured beef patty, a brush of blue cheese and a jam that slipped between sweet and spicy. A dork burger ($17) was an aptly-named seesaw of ground duck and pork, emphasis on the porky flavor, with a tart apple slaw. Sweet potato fries were underdone, the crunchy texture unpleasant and a rare miss.

A sausage pappardelle ($19) arrived with silky textured ribbons of pasta in creamy marsala, the dish threaded with ground sausage and mushrooms.

The seafood side of the menu intrigued because each held something unexpected. Miso-coated black cod ($26) was seared until blackened, the sublimely salty exterior breaking to flaky layers that tasted oceanic. A veggie hash displayed a late summer’s jewel: sauteed corn.

A Caesar salad ($10) was filled with a smoky surprise — lots of chilled smoked mussels — with an anchovy-laden dressing a terrific wrap for soft butter lettuce.

Fried halibut ($15) on the shareable menu was jacketed in a lacy-textured batter with potato “coins” and a showy swirl of spicy molasses sauce brushed across half the plate, just one example of Bray’s sometimes-fussy presentation (never quite crossing the line into “foodie preciousness”).

Delving deeper into the starter menu, arancini ($9), fried rice balls, rested atop a smear of bearnaise, dainty watercress tangled on top. Biscuits and rabbit gravy ($12) were three tiny biscuits finished with a swipe of currant jam and sunk into a pool of creamy gravy, stretched across a long plate.

I revisited ricotta gnocchi “mac and cheese” ($7) three times to, ahem, make sure the restaurant could duplicate that majestic dish — and it did every time. The feathery-textured gnocchi pillows were suspended in a creamy sauce with a deep, cheesy backbone. It’s a must-order. Bray said his kitchen trick is to fry the gnocchi.

This is Bray’s first restaurant, but it felt like one owned by a more experienced chef than one not even 30 years old. (Bray’s résumé includes Tacoma’s Adriatic Grill and Grassi’s Ristorante.)

Service, except for one busy night when our flustered server neglected us, was personable and on-task. Wine recommendations were made effortlessly, ingredients explained in detail, servers kept glasses filled. I especially appreciated the table side prattle of one server who explained in detail the tap list of a Tacoma brewery featured on the menu, offering directions to the brewery for a visit. That’s Tacoma-style hospitality. I’m a fan.

The Table

Where: 2715 Sixth Ave., Tacoma.

Contact: 253-327-1862 or thetabletacoma.com.

Hours: Open at 4 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. Serving happy hour and dinner.

Rating: Recommended, with few places for improvement.

Beverage list: Hand-made sodas; short wine list focused on affordable glasses and bottles; a mostly Tacoma/South Sound beer list.

Reservations: Recommended on weekdays, strongly urged for weekends.

Atmosphere: Northwest modern with industrial touches; dining room is quite loud.

Access: No barriers noted.

In the kitchen: Chef-owner Derek Bray; sous chef Jonathan Tram.

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