Table 31 Review: Turning the Table

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

THE CRABCAKE APPETIZER sports a golden crust, sweet lump crabmeat, and homemade mayo kicked up with Scarduzio’s own Worcestershire sauce. The roast chicken, served over a generous dollop of mashed potatoes and rosemary-infused pan gravy, boasts perfectly moist meat and a buttery, crackling skin. A side of “risotto beignets” brings delicious Italian arancini, fried rice balls whose crispy exteriors envelop creamy risotto and crunchy flecks of smoky bacon. But a jumbo shrimp cocktail costing $22 brings just four shrimp, boiled to jaw-fatiguing chewiness. A midsummer bowl of yellow tomato gazpacho should burst with the full-flavored zest of the fruit at its zenith, but Table 31’s version tasted bland and watery, with none of the balanced acid and sugar that can make this dish so refreshing.

The steaks are often flavorful and juicy, with nary a thread of gristle. But other times, the meat disappoints. And with steaks averaging $44, less-than-perfect cuts of beef should be unimaginable. A 12-ounce American Wagyu strip steak — $58 — arrived veined with unchewable ropes of fat. The Delmonico, a relative bargain at $36, was heralded correctly by a server as the hidden gem on the steak list. The unusual cut, a combination of rib eye and deckle (the outer part of prime rib), is rubbed with a mélange of spices including cayenne, cumin, coriander, bay, garlic and thyme. Its delicate marbling yields a surprisingly tender and juicy bite.

The only bigger gamble than choosing a steak is the reservation roulette that determines your table. Will you have a cozy booth downstairs with views of 17th Street, or will you have to endure the flying elbows of waitstaff working at the station that abuts your cramped second-floor table? Whichever dining room you land in will feature a dated, monochromatic color scheme of browns and beiges and cheesy sepia photos of city landmarks like the Museum of Art and the Ben Franklin Bridge.

A full meal with drinks at Table 31 is likely to cost more than $100 per person — a nice bottle of red can double that sum. That money (or less) fetches dinner at Osteria, Supper or Lacroix. But those restaurants are on another level, distinguished by hip settings, focused concepts, and tightly edited menus of exceptional dishes. Table 31, at its best, would have been a thrilling addition to the scene a decade ago, but in 2008, this hit-or-miss menu generates more buyer’s remorse than buzz.

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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!!