Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Crazy 8s

I'd like to mount a (sort of) defense of Table 8, the new restaurant in the Cooper Square Hotel.

Frank Bruni gave it a big goose egg in today's dining section. A few weeks ago Adam Platt similarly knocked it giving it the ultimate put-down that it was an "out of town" restaurant (although gave them a star). Even Restaurant Girl complained about the service.

I went for the friends and family opening a few months ago -- which, I concede, one should never judge a restaurant by -- but I think the restaurant is getting beat up, slightly.

Granted: Friends of mine who have been there since the opening say that the food is erratic. (Not good.) The service is terrible. The decor has a "we're much cooler than you" vibe to it that I normally hate. And the bathroom doors are impossible to close. (One friend walked in on a woman mid-way through doing her business. Oy.)

All these things might be true -- but I'll also say a few words in its defense.

1) When the food is good, it's pretty good.

Not mind-blowing. Not excellent. But good.

The raw bar had some excellent duck proscuitto and raw scallops. The flatbread was fine. The linguine with lemon and breadcrumbs was something I was expecting to hate, but I thought was very decent. The duck main course was good -- and the grilled chicken was very good.

The wine menu was also pretty good.

2) The prices are reasonable.

I have the feeling that if Table 8 had opened a year ago, the prices would have been 40 to 60 percent higher than they are now. But I like the fact that you could take a date there and leave expecting to spend around $60 or $70 rather than $150.

3) The decor isn't that bad.

If all these things sound like weak defenses -- that's because they are. Truthfully, I have no idea if Table 8 is as bad as Bruni said it was. Cooking a meal for a closed room full of friends and family is nothing like cooking for four-times as many random strangers. You either have the support to do it, or you don't. (Sounds like they don't.)

But I do think that there are a few simple things that can be done to fix Table 8 fairly easily. And given its location and its price range, it has the potential to be a really fun place to take a date. Here's hoping Govind Armstrong takes it to heart and this restaurant reboots itself.