1701 JFK Boulevard, 215-567-7111, table-31.com
AVERAGE ENTREE PRICE: $31.
FOOD: Upscale Italian.
GET: A group of friends together for drinks at the Plaza, Table 31’s outdoor dining space.
WINE: A heavily marked-up selection of glasses and bottles from Western Europe, California and South America.
At the height of 2009’s unlikely mid-recession steakhouse boom, Chris Scarduzio, executive chef and co-owner of Table 31, pulled out of the game. Table 31 would no longer be a steakhouse, he declared. It would henceforth be an Italian restaurant. The steakhouse market was suddenly oversaturated, and the closing of Brasserie Perrier meant he had nowhere to really cook. “Broiling a steak and slapping it on a plate isn’t very creative,” says Scarduzio.
And thus affordable pastas are now fixtures on his menu. But for what sounded like a dramatic about-face, the bi-level behemoth at the base of the Comcast Center hasn’t gotten much of a makeover. You can order cannoli for dessert. The $58 cowboy steak and five other steaks are still on offer.
The food, in large part, is as good as before. Highlights include tender octopus dressed with capers, lemon and olive oil, and handmade chicken-and-wild-mushroom tortelloni. Even the “Luxury for Less” menu, a weekday three-course $35 prix fixe, features well-executed fare like a flavorful flat-iron steak and a perfectly roasted chicken breast.
Service, on the other hand, is the restaurant’s Achilles’ heel. Waiters are sneaky about up-selling; when they offer a choice between garlic bread and sourdough, they won’t always tell you that while the sourdough is complimentary, the garlic bread is not. Your waiter also may or may not make you aware of the specials — on one visit, neighboring tables heard about a foie gras dish that wasn’t offered to me — and if you’d like the prix fixe, you won’t necessarily be told it’s available. I even had staff refuse my request to move to a more comfortable table, claiming that the other tables were reserved, though several desirable ones remained vacant throughout my meal. A magnet for business meetings and VIPs who often prize service over cuisine, Table 31 must do better than this to thrive.
The new Table 31 isn’t all that transformed, but it’s good to see Scarduzio uphold the standards for quality cooking he set for himself at Brasserie Perrier. Regardless of how good the food may be, service like this leaves a bad taste in your mouth.