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Turning Tables

Food is the focus at this locally owned upscale eatery

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Ballantyne, to older native Charlotteans, was the part of the city where you weren't allowed to drive after dark because it was so desolate. That scenario is hard to imagine today, with new housing developments, townhouses and apartments populating the area like rabbits.

Restaurateur and native Charlottean Alex Myrick, who owns Blue Restaurant & Bar in downtown Charlotte, saw Ballantyne -- an area that now bespeaks wealth and transplants -- as his second opportunity to open an upscale dining emporium. "The demographics and psychographics were right. Many of the residents of Ballantyne drive all the way uptown for fine dining," he said.

In March, Myrick opened Table Restaurant & Bar in Ballantyne, a 6,500-square-foot, 133-seat (with another 55 on the patio) restaurant in the Village Shopping Center.

Open the door to Table and you immediately see two twinkling, fiber-optic-lit, 18-foot wine towers flanking the bar area. The rakish man waiting in front of me at the host stand turned to his buddy and whispered lasciviously, "Do the girls climb up there? Maybe we should sit at the bar."

Beyond the bar area, the dining room is a blast to your visual sense. The color pattern screams Barbie's Dreamhouse on steroids: pinks, creams, powder blue with some brown and cantaloupe thrown in. Indeed, Barbie lives in a surreal incarnation of a Colette Peters wedding cake. Table was designed by Little Diversified Architectural Consulting of Charlotte. Myrick said he told them he wanted a "glamorous restaurant, circa 1920 to 1940. A rainbow room with LA style and a bit of Miami thrown in."

Our server confided, "The owner's had the pink toned down five times so far." I can't imagine what it looked like before. Around the ceiling is additional pinkish halogen lighting. Cream-colored glass chandeliers punctuate the pinkness. The cheese cellar bar -- a noteworthy and welcome addition to any restaurant -- is white marble. One wall mural depicts a happy wedding -- a Myrick family photo. White wooden chairs are comfortably upholstered in blue fabric and large rounded booths fill the rest of the space. The two-story windows of the dining room overlook the patio and neighboring Villa Antonio's.

Table's crowd ranges from groups that spent the day on the golf course to a couple at the next table making out. Golf shirts and upscale cruise attire prevails.

For those who wonder if I approach a restaurant anonymously, I do. But sometimes I am recognized. Especially if the chef -- in this case Gene Briggs -- has been on the Charlotte restaurant scene for 15-plus years. On this occasion I was strategically seated across from the window in the swinging kitchen door and had a multitude of servers at my beck and call. Just as Briggs could check me out, I could see Briggs debriefing my primary server after retrieving each course.

But there's more. While sipping my wine I noticed Heidi Edidin, restaurant critic for Charlotte Weekly, being ushered to her seat. As I approached her table, she burst into laughter. We quickly scanned for Observer critic Helen Schwab. Nope, only two of us on this night. Edidin, by the way, had the same entourage of servers that I had. My surrounding neighbors did not.

But Table's kitchen is in the capable hands of Executive Chef Briggs (a partner at Blue), Chef de Cuisine Ben Miles and the talented Executive Sous Jamie Lynch. The menu, designed by Briggs, is "modern American" but rather eclectic in approach. In the kitchen is a "1,000 degree" oven used in dishes denoted on the menu.

The onion bacon tarte baked in the 1,000-degree oven was crispy, as expected, and enhanced by tangy robiola cheese. Another starter, a house variant of a lobster crab cake, was a delight, but was not enough to share. The sweetly piquant papaya salad was clean and crisp, made more tasteful with a few grilled shrimp. On another salad, endive was crowned with pear and goat cheese and then given a reasonable douse of a sherry vinaigrette.

The duck entrée, however, was confused with too much sauce and almost dried-out meat. The accompanying duck spring rolls didn't hit the mark either. The kitchen's expert touch worked better on the exceptionally flavored grilled diver scallops. Table's dessert list includes the ubiquitous vanilla crème brulee, which you should forgo. Rather, opt for the more interesting goat cheesecake drizzled with a gorgeous blueberry compote.

The wine list is extensive with the average price $60. Dinner entrees range from $17 to $32.

Encouraging the 33-year-olds (the average age in Ballantyne) to feel they own the town while persuading those who actually can own a good portion of it is the task Myrick has at hand. But with Table, he has positioned himself for longevity in this neighborhood.

To contact Tricia regarding tips, compliments, or complaints or to send notice of a food or wine event (at least 12 days in advance, please), opening, closing, or menu change, fax Eaters' Digest at 704-944-3605, leave voice mail at 704-522-8334, ext. 136, or e-mail tricia.childress@creativeloafing.com.

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