Table 50, Roanoke
I’ve said before that I don’t think much of the Roanoke food scene–I love our farmers and farmers markets and the creative energy that flows through the folks there, but as for restaurants? I’m always a little underwhelmed. G has been working on convincing me otherwise though.
What started out in the afternoon as a plan to go to Red Hen in Lexington (their EC, Tucker Yoder, is leaving the establishment after service on Saturday night, & I’ve been wanting to go since I moved here over a year ago, but could never find anyone to go with–anyway, we both wanted to go and try Yoder’s creations before he switched to The Clifton Inn in Charlottesville) turned into disappointment when I learned that every evening was booked through the week. So, moving onto plan B, we decided to go to Metro!, an American/Asian fusion place that just put a fabulous charcuterie board on their menu in celebration of Oktoberfest. Well, it wasn’t our night because they didn’t have it on the menu (because they want to keep the meats fresh, which I respect, of course), but that left neither of us jazzed about the regular menu. So, plan C, we walked across the square to Table 50 in search of martinis and gnocchi.
No luck on the gnocchi. For some reason, Table 50 hasn’t switched from its summer menu to fall/winter (it is the middle of October already, right?), and while the menu looked good, it didn’t capture my heart (though I’m dying to go back and try their fried chicken–is good fried chicken possible in Roanoke??) until the server mentioned the dinner specials. And she said the magic words: apple cider braised rabbit. I wasn’t able to process the other accouterments to the rabbit, but I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I wanted the rabbit. Cute and delicious? Who could ask for anything more? So G & I debated the wine list (several good bottles under $26–impressive) and what else we wanted to order (we always split everything), and then toasted our California Cabernet Sauv to 2 months since we headed north on I-81 for Canada.
For the first course we ordered the “Prince Edward Island mussels in a white wine saffron broth,” and we weren’t disappointed with them. I mean, I’m not sure how a restaurant could really screw up mussels (I’m sure there’s a way), but these were delicate with a waft of the ocean layered in the nice, mellow acidity of the white wine. The saffron could have been punched up a little more–it was hard to detect–but the lack of it didn’t detract from the dish. And the baguette served before the meal? Perfect when dredged in the broth. One complaint: a few were gritty. But that happens everywhere. And I seem to have a knack for picking a gritty one to be the first one to pop in my mouth–it’s happened at every restaurant I’ve ordered them at–so, again, not a huge detraction from the dish as a whole.
Second course was the “Herb baked goat cheese salad with spiced pecans, pear, and cherries.” At this point I should mention that Table 50 gets major points for splitting up our plates. I’m positive we were given far more food than if each course were served on one plate with us nibbling off it ourselves. I actually like the communal aspect of sharing food, but, given the way it was done last night, we were stuffed by the end of the evening, and unable to fathom how anyone could have eaten that much food by themselves. Three cheers for sharing food!
But back to the salad. While the salad wasn’t all that creative–I make a version of this salad every day at work–it was perfect. The goat cheese was warm with a nice crunch to the crust (not too salty either), the greens fresh and not wilted, the julienned pears mixed with the dried cherries gave a nice crisp and tart contrast, and the spicing on the pecans was nice, very autumnal, which is why I suggested we order the dish. Given the lightness of the summer menu, I wanted something that fit the chillier evening better–this salad definitely did that.
For the final and third course, we ordered, as if you didn’t already know, the rabbit. I know I really lose my vegan readers at this point (the few of you that are still out there), but you have to bear with me–it was delicious. Just smelling the plate made me happy. The rabbit & the bacon & the sweet potatoes & the apple cider jus were incredibly fragrant–and tasted all that much better together. In fact, I have to particularly note the excellent quality of the sauteed napa cabbage. Sure, the bacon in it was great (isn’t bacon always great?), but the crisp freshness of the cabbage blew me away. As a former vegan, I applaud the chef–I could have eaten an entire bowl of it. The only flaw was that I couldn’t detect any horseradish in the sweet potato pavé. I’m going to blame the Roanoke culture and the fact that people here can’t handle a lot of wham to their dish, but if there had been that horseradish kick, it would have been 100% perfect. And in case you were wondering, yes, the rabbit was perfectly cooked–tender and full of flavor.
All in all, a wonderful meal to end an evening that started out so confusing and so disappointing. On the bright side of it, I was able (somehow) to score a reservation for tonight at 8:30 at Red Hen so G & I will get to experience the amazingness that is Chef Yoder’s food. We were also told that starting Friday, we’ll be able to order the charcuterie board at Metro!, so that will be featured on here in the near future. And as for Table 50? It’s convinced me that good food can be found in restaurants in Roanoke–sure, the menu isn’t all that adventurous, but the execution was spot-on and the vegetables were fresh and tasted like vegetables (one of the ways I always judge a restaurant). And the rabbit, dear lord, must I swoon over the rabbit again? Kudos to chef Caudill for a delicious evening–and keep featuring that rabbit; it’s phenomenal.