Table 31 Review: Turning the Table

Can chef Chris Scarduzio recapture the success of Brasserie Perrier with new Table 31?

When Brasserie Perrier, Chris Scarduzio’s debut restaurant, opened in 1997, Philadelphia ate it up. It was the era of Carrie Bradshaw, dot-com millionaires and lobster mashed potatoes. Brasserie, with its approachable French menu and power happy hour, attracted diners as smiley and carefree as the cast of Friends.

Table 31, Scarduzio’s newest restaurant, grasps for that giddy vibe. Even the name is a reference to Brasserie’s glory days, when its table number 31, favored for its conspicuous central location, was requested by visiting celebs like Billy Joel and Bruce Willis. But today’s diners, a new generation with more sophisticated palates and increasing anxieties about the economy, have changed.

Our standout restaurants of recent years have delivered sharply focused, coherent dining experiences. At Osteria, Jeff Michaud re-creates dishes he learned in Italy from his Lombardian grandmother-in-law. At Zahav, Michael Solomonov gives diners a taste of Israel, where he trained and traveled with his staff to ensure authenticity. When you walk through the doors of these well-orchestrated eateries, there’s zero ambiguity.

Table 31, on the other hand, bills itself as a “steakhouse-bistro.” But the bill of fare, which also includes Italian and Asian fusion dishes, is even more of a hodgepodge than that vague label suggests. This generalist’s approach often results when a well-known chef is approached by a developer who owns real estate ideal for a blockbuster restaurant. Scarduzio says he had no plans for another eatery when John Gattuso, a Comcast Center developer and Brasserie Perrier regular, begged him and partner Georges Perrier to open something in the new tower. Restaurants that spring to life this way typically produce menus based on a safe but out-of-touch notion of what the public wants.

Scarduzio decided people want steak. So at Table 31, there are 12 cuts of beef, two cattle breeds and nine portion sizes to choose from. But he decided diners, especially those Brasserie fans, also love bistro-style dishes like roasted whole fish. And the something-for-everyone approach doesn’t end there: There’s Peking duck, bass with bok choy and kaffir lime, and, just so no one feels left out, crab with spaghetti, and cavatelli with guanciale, tomato and basil.

You might expect Italian specialties from a chef named Scarduzio, but not inside a menu stamped “steakhouse-bistro.” A decade ago, this muddled menu wouldn’t have rankled, especially because some of the dishes are deliciously rendered. But today, focus is the difference between a smash-hit restaurant and just another acceptable place to burn through an expense account.

The kitchen’s lack of consistency compounds the problem. For each dish worthy of adoration, there’s one so poorly executed that it’s hard to believe it emerged from the same kitchen.

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  • karen

    i couldnt agree more joy… nice job

  • Adam

    The cover of this months magazine reads " the guys behind Le Bec Fin" which would imply to most that an article would be written to share with the readers of the recent changes at Le Bec. I actually went through the magazine twice looking for this article even after I noticed the review of Table 31. I asked myself "what does Chris Scarduzio have to do with Le Bec Fin? He was probably in third grade when Chef Perrier opened the doors in Philadelphia. Then I read the first sentence of the article that states the Brasserie was Scarduzio's debut restaurant. Brasserie was a long time dream of Chef Perrier and he opened that restaurant with great pride. Scarduzzio was a sous chef to Francesco Martella when Brasserie opened. Hardly could be described as his "debut restaurant" but more accuartaely rather his chance to work for a culinary legend like Chef Perrier. Do you think Gattuso would have begged had this whole concept not involved Chef Perrier. How soon Scarduzio forgets the people who h

  • sarah

    I agree with the above with regard to Chef Scarduzzio, who was a SOUS CHEF at Brasserie lest we do some fact checking first? I see how one sided this article actually is and to bite the hand that fed you is just so very wrong on all levels. To actually think that one would go "begging" Chef Scarduzzio is also beyond my realm of thought, knowing full well without Chef Perrier he would not be where is is today. And where is the article "about the guys behind Le Bec Fin~ there is only one man behind Le Bec Fin and he nor Pierre are even mentioned.What press kit where you reading from as you missed many who ARE BEHIND LE BEC FIN! What a disgrace of an article

  • jim

    table 31's decor is totally cheese. But Osteria Hip? Not really. last time I was there half the diners were over 50. And that decor isn't exaclty "cutting edge" either. In fact most of philly's restaurants idea of "hip decor" looks like a martha stewart magazine circa 1995.

  • Michael

    I have been to Table 31 several times and ALWAYS had a GREAT TIME!! The decor is beautiful, it is sleek and stylish, the huge windows are lovely to gaze out of and the overall ambience is the BEST the city has to offer!! My friends and I always sit in the bar area and normally the bartenders are friendly, attentive, personable, and provide EXCELLENT service. However, there is one bartender, inparticular, that we ABSOLUTELY despise! She is an African-American woman who is obnoxious, rude, and has a negative attitude!! She acted as though she was annoyed that we were even there. I understand that everyone has bad days, but compared to the other bartenders, who seem to WANT US THERE, she DOES NOT deserve her position! We will come back as long as we are serviced by ANY other bartender. Unfortunately, for you, she will scare away A LOT of business for first-time visitors. I RECOMMEND YOU LET HER GO!!