The Kitchen Table is the kind of restaurant that will take us there. One of the best meals to be found in Richmond is next to the Farmers’ Market in Shockoe Bottom. From the flash-fried catfish wontons ($7), filled with hunks of fresh, white catfish and served atop crisp carrots, peppers and shiitake mushrooms, to the melt-in-your-mouth brandied peppercorn New York strip steak ($21), your taste buds will be overcome with joy.
The Kitchen Table, created by chef and owner Sosie Hublitz, has skillfully crafted an all-organic menu designed to delight the senses of those who appreciate handcrafted cuisine – and, especially nowadays, organic meats. Her intimate restaurant is cozy and diner-friendly with a gorgeous art-deco-style bar and a large, private booth. Grand antique mirrors oversee the elongated room leading to the super-cute unisex bathroom, complete with aromatic hand lotions and a glowing fish tank.
Service is an exercise in graciousness and knowledge. The servers don’t simply memorize the wine list and specials, they fully understand them. Standard bread and butter is replaced with a basket of thinly sliced, toasted bread crisps accompanied by fresh pesto spread and garlicky hummus. The roasted corn and havarti tamale appetizer ($6), served with a piquant green sauce and fresh tomatillos, nearly caused an all-out fork fight at the table — it was that good. And the Maytag blue cheese salad ($7), with its crunchy, candied pecans, pungent blue-veined-cheese crumbles and jazzy champagne vinaigrette, could have made the angels weep with happiness.
Lunchtime is standing room only and the food is equally excellent. A Reuben ($8) on rustic panini bread, either with corned beef or grilled tofu, is enough for two tasty lunches. A deli case features fresh homemade salads such as chickpeas tossed with black olives and vinaigrette, as well as hot, tasty soups ($3 a cup) including a creamy sherried crab and corn chowder chock full of lump crab and cubed potatoes. Daily specials can include a free-range oven-roasted chicken ($9), an herb-and-cheese Alfredo ravioli ($9) or a salmon, crab and havarti quiche ($9).
But you gotta come for dinner to experience Hublitz’s real talents. The dinner menu at The Kitchen Table is petite, offering only six entrees (not including specials), and it rotates seasonally based on what’s available. Each dish is skillfully crafted with just the right balance of flavor, texture and freshness while still retaining the splendor of its carefully fused ingredients.
Start with a bottle of Mantel Blanco Sauvignon Blanc ($24) one of many excellent and penny-wise wine options, and order the nightly special, such as a coconut curried grilled rockfish with baby bok choy (market price). Or go for something off the small yet mighty seasonal menu like the shrimp Diane ($19) served over coarse havarti-enhanced grits and lightly seasoned chopped collards. When you’re done, dive into a piece of luscious and creamy pumpkin cheesecake ($6) and a fresh pot of coffee.
There’s a passion for food at The Kitchen Table, and you don’t need a four-page menu as evidence. There’s something to be said for folks who do it small but well. With more local restaurants maintaining the simple integrity of superlative food, Richmond will indeed shine brighter in the culinary world. S
Kendra Bailey Morris teaches cooking classes for Sur La Table Cooking School and works as a freelance chef. She visits each restaurant twice and each visit is unannounced and paid for by Style.
The Kitchen Table ($$$) 3 N. 17th St., Richmond 804) 782-9200 Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. lunch Tuesday through Saturday 5 p.m.–9:30 p.m. dinner Sunday Brunch 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Reservations only accepted for parties of 6 or more.
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