Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Table 31


Fat Guy
 Share

Recommended Posts

We were down in Philadelphia over the weekend because Ellen was working on a newspaper story about the new children's museum, and we managed to coordinate travel and free dinner with our friend Shelley Clark (also New York-based) who does PR for Georges Perrier's Signature Restaurant Group. Perrier and his protege Chris Scarduzio have recently opened Table 31 (named for the most desirable table at Brasserie Perrier) in an impressive three-story space at the base of the new Comcast Center (now Philadelphia's tallest building). Craig LaBan recently gave it three stars (or three of whatever those symbols are that he uses).

As someone accustomed to New York City dining, one of the first things I notice about many restaurants in Philadelphia -- Table 31 included -- is that there's more space. The tables at Table 31 (we sat at table 33 by the way) are separated by chasms (by New York standards) of space, which for me is a totally unfamiliar feeling especially at a steakhouse. In general, Table 31 has built a non-steakhouse restaurant around a core of steakhouse steaks. This is nothing new: in many cities over the past decade or so I've been watching the rise of contemporary, user-friendly, non-macho steakhouses (New York's Peter and Penny Glazier, owners of Strip House, were real trailblazers in this regard back at the turn of the century, and Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak concept is one of the current leaders in the genre) as well as attempts by non-steakhouse restaurants to serve steakhouse-level steaks, but at Table 31 I felt as though someone finally cracked the code and got just about everything right. So much so that it has blurred the lines between steakhouse and "regular restaurant," perhaps beyond recognition.

We started with American Wagyu sliders (mini-burgers to be precise, and delicious); a gorgeously presented shellfish salad of shrimp, crabmeat and bay scallops (all very high quality) over french navy beans with mustard vinaigrette; crabcakes as good as you're going to get outside a couple of places in Baltimore, with crispy shallots and red-pepper remoulade; and tomato-and-burrata salad with mediocre, pale beefsteak tomatoes and very good burrata. We also shared Chris Scarduzio's signature cavatelli with crispy guanciale, olive oil, tomato, basil and ricotta salata -- it deserves to be a signature.

I had the bone-in 20-ounce New York strip. This is a USDA Prime steak, however in breaking with steakhouse orthodoxy it is not dry aged. It's wet aged for 28 days. Chris Scarduzio's position is that this long wet aging -- 28 days is much longer than the wet-aged norm, as one business advantage of the process is that it's quick -- yields a more tender steak. This is going to be a sacrilegious-sounding claim to steakhouse traditionalists, but I'm a results-oriented taster and I thought the steak was remarkably good -- one of the best steaks I've had in recent memory. As good as Peter Luger? No. But as good as the next level. There's a whole separate discussion to be had on wet v. dry aging, but my take-away from my Table 31 experience is that if you have great steak to start with you can get great results through long, slow wet aging. I was not able, just sitting there in the restaurant, to detect the lack of dry aging. It's something I had to find out by asking.

My wife and son shared a filet mignon, which was about as good as filet mignon gets (I'm not a huge fan of this cut because it sacrifices flavor for tenderness), though he quickly defected to the strip. Also on the table were braised short ribs with a red-wine sauce. The ribs were boned out, so I'd call that cut of meat flanken. I'm not sure how I'd improve the dish -- it was quite good -- but I've had short ribs as good several restaurants. (It's just not a hard dish to make well.)

The steaks come with a small corn salad/relish, which is good. Other sides, as at a normal steakhouse, carry their own price tags. We got the fries, which were just right, as well as truffled mashed potatoes (with little detectable truffle flavor) and broccoli rabe with garlic (well executed).

The steaks were cooked exactly as ordered, but a sample size of two at a table being looked over by the management is not exactly indicative of anything. LaBan's review had this to say about doneness:

I've heard mixed reports on Table 31's skill at hitting the right temperature with its 1,800-degree broiler - though each of our steaks were spot-on rosy. Still, at these prices, one should expect the kitchen to rectify any misfires ("I will make it right," pledges Scarduzio).

Service was on par with what you'd expect at a good, upscale, New American restaurant. The servers wear name tags, which is a little tacky and distracts from their otherwise nicely designed uniforms, but our server -- "Kelly" -- was delightful and particularly accommodating of our three-year-old son's needs (extra Maraschino cherries, etc.).

It was the sommelier's night off but we were well advised on wine by manager Marc Grika, a survivor of the Chodorow and Fireman empires in New York, who it seemed to me easily could be a sommelier were he not the general manager. We had the 1998 Lamborn Family Estate Howell Mountain Zinfandel, which if we'd been paying would have been $56. I tried to ascertain the retail price with Google but couldn't -- and I'm not even sure you could get a 1998 bottle right now if you wanted. I'm pretty sure it's a low markup for a restaurant list, though -- I seem to remember seeing these wines in the low 30s. And it was just right for the combination of foods we had. Marc himself is a big fan of Merlots, and the list has several good ones, but we didn't go down that path.

The pastry kitchen, headed up by Signature Restaurant Group's Rocco Lugrine, puts out impressive desserts. My favorite was the bread pudding with almond nougatine and vanilla ice cream, everybody else's was the chocolate cake, and the most visually stunning was the rack of three mini ice-cream cones.

After dinner, we wandered into the lobby of the Comcast building, where we watched a pretty amazing display of video artistry on the world's largest high-definition flat-panel monitor. It's so big, it's totally out of proportion to anything I'd ever seen: 80 feet by 30 feet, with something like 10 million pixels. Here are some more details about that.

I have some PR photos I got from the restaurant, which I'll post separately.

Table 31

1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard

Philadelphia, PA 19103

www.www.table-31.com

215-567-7111

(edited to correct typos and such)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is the downstairs dining room, where we sat (our table was the one on the right, the second one behind the tree).

gallery_1_295_89586.jpg

And this is the downstairs bar, which we overlooked and through which you pass to get to the Comcast building lobby.

gallery_1_295_99674.jpg

This is the way they present the steaks:

gallery_1_295_26450.jpg

Mini ice-cream cones:

gallery_1_295_22720.jpg

Chocolate cake:

gallery_1_295_35896.jpg

Again, these photos were provided by the restaurant. They were professionally styled, lit, etc. However, they are accurate reflections of what I saw (I haven't posted photos of anything I didn't see, though I have some in inventory).

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We had the 1998 Lamborn Family Estate Howell Mountain Zinfandel, which if we'd been paying would have been $56. I tried to ascertain the retail price with Google but couldn't -- and I'm not even sure you could get a 1998 bottle right now if you wanted. I'm pretty sure it's a low markup for a restaurant list, though -- I seem to remember seeing these wines in the low 30s.

Well, color me disappointed. I had several snarky remarks about how Perrier would never sell a wine for a fair price, but

http://www.lcb.state.pa.us/webapp/Product_...C&submit=SEARCH

which is roughly what the restaurant paid for it, and which makes $56 a remarkably fair price for your bottle, by Philadelphia wine-list standards. By any standards, really.

And which means any of us could Special Order the wine through our local PLCB store.

I do wonder at a ten-year-old zinfandel, though. Not something you see very often. How was it drinking?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another thing LaBan notes in his review is that wine prices have come down since opening. I have the whole wine list but no good way to post it. I can try to answer questions about it, though.

I thought it was drinking very well -- it tasted fresh but had developed some complexity over time.

I wouldn't be surprised if the PLCB has it because Table 31 pushed for it. Then again I don't know the ins-and-outs of the PLCB process.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not to be a cynic, but is it possible that the wine bottle price on the comp check was the restaurant's cost rather than retail just for their inventory and cost purposes?? I'd pretty much fall over if any restaurant were serving wines at cost. :shock: Even Friday, Saturday, Sunday does their famous $10 above cost wine deal that's pretty awesome, but they're still making something on it.

:shrug: I guess I really am a cynic....

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not to be a cynic, but is it possible that the wine bottle price on the comp check was the restaurant's cost rather than retail just for their inventory and cost purposes??  I'd pretty much fall over if any restaurant were serving wines at cost:shock:  Even Friday, Saturday, Sunday does their famous $10 above cost wine deal that's pretty awesome, but they're still making something on it.

:shrug:  I guess I really am a cynic....

The PLCB retail cost is about $25, so the restaurant selling it for $58 is really quite reasonable, for Philly standards. I'd be pretty surprised if the whole list had markups that low, but then, maybe I'm just a cynic too!

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The following are all the zins on the list (the last number is the price):

Zinfandel

650 Renwood, Grand Pere, Amador County, Sonoma, CA 2004 88

651 Hendry Block 28, Napa Valley, CA 2004 83

653 Ravenswood, Teldeshi, Sonoma County, CA 2004 67

654 Lamborn Family Estate, Howell Mountain, Napa, CA 1998 56

655 Ridge, Lytton Spring, Sonoma County, CA 2005 59

656 Murphy-Goode, Liars Dice, Sonoma County, CA 2005 44

657 Consentino, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, CA 2005 48

Also this is what LaBan had to say:

The wine program has already been improved, with a recent revamp of the wildly overpriced first list, with some wines dropping 25 percent to more reasonable markups, and more good choices under $60.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another thing LaBan notes in his review is that wine prices have come down since opening. I have the whole wine list but no good way to post it. I can try to answer questions about it, though.

I thought it was drinking very well -- it tasted fresh but had developed some complexity over time.

I wouldn't be surprised if the PLCB has it because Table 31 pushed for it. Then again I don't know the ins-and-outs of the PLCB process.

That's likely to be true: the PLCB will try to obtain any wine you request through one of their vendors, and if they succeed it becomes an SLO catalogue item, available to any customer, though sometimes with an order minimum - a case, in this instance. Most often, their access to older wines is very limited, but occasionally I've been pleasantly surprised.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not to be a cynic, but is it possible that the wine bottle price on the comp check was the restaurant's cost rather than retail just for their inventory and cost purposes??  I'd pretty much fall over if any restaurant were serving wines at cost:shock:   Even Friday, Saturday, Sunday does their famous $10 above cost wine deal that's pretty awesome, but they're still making something on it.

:shrug:  I guess I really am a cynic....

The PLCB retail cost is about $25, so the restaurant selling it for $58 is really quite reasonable, for Philly standards. I'd be pretty surprised if the whole list had markups that low, but then, maybe I'm just a cynic too!

Ahh. OK. I misunderstood Capaneus saying that was "roughly what the restaurant paid for it..." I thought he meant they were selling the bottle at cost. 43% cost is high but still a reasonable profit and close to the two and half times markup that used to be the norm. That makes a whole lot more sense.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Didn't try the food when the last Phillyblog Happy Hour was forced inside to Table 31's bar because rain had shut down the Plaza Cafe on the Comcast Center's front terrace (also a Perrier operation), but I do give very high marks to the decor and the service at the bar. (Hey, I'm turning 50 in exactly two weeks. Maybe I should get someone to treat me to dinner here.)

But since this is the Pennsylvania board:

Table 31

1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard

Philadelphia, PA  19103

www.www.table-31.com

215-567-7111

Nearest SEPTA service: The Comcast Center sits atop Suburban Station, through which every SEPTA Regional Rail line passes. Underground concourses connect Suburban Station to the central subway interchange station at 15th Street/City Hall, and about a dozen or so bus routes stop at 17th Street and JFK Boulevard westbound and 17th and Market, one-half block south, eastbound. In other words, if you can't figure out how to get here on SEPTA, you're beyond help.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A drug rep took me there Thursday and I really enjoyed it, on several levels. First of all, I thought the service was warm and unpretentious, something I like about Brasserie Perrier. Second of all, I thought each of the sauces or preparations I had was wonderful. My steak for instance was beautifully flavored. The meat itself was not that tender, but it was cooked the way I ordered it (rare), perhaps if I had got it more cooked it would have been slightly more tender and less chewy. The dessert was beautifully presented though I did not think it tasted special: it was a complicated and elaborate pastry, though.

I think the thing I loved about Table 31 is that like Barclay Prime, it is a new take on the steak house, and I do not remember there being anything like this in NYC (I left there in 2000), so I feel as if Philadelphia is perfecting something new. Until Barclay Prime (and now Table 31), a steakhouse could just do the same thing better and better, like Capitol Grill, and thet gets old fast.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Myself and 8 other friends went on Saturday night for a big-night-out-for-no-particular-reason. Love those nights. In a nutshell, everything was very good. We started off with two seafood appetizer specials that were enough for the entire table. There were two huge bowls filled with ice and loaded up with lobster tails, shrimp that were as big as lobster tails, Alaskan King Crab legs and finished off with a bowl of lump crab meat on top. Everyone was very happy with this.

There were too many people for me to keep track of what everyone was getting, but the majority of people did get some type of steak, and no one had anything but good things to say about their meal. Everyone universally agreed that the sides of garlic mashed potatoes and mac and cheese were the best they've ever had. You would think that it would be hard to turn two old standbys like garlic mashed and mac and cheese into something extraordinary, but that's exactly what they were.

As for me, I got the big "tomahawk" chop, a 24oz ribeye. It was very tender and had a more subtle flavor than I was expecting. It was indeed very good, but not the best steak in the city. If I had to throw a list together, my favorites would be Barclay Prime at #1, the steak for two at Osteria, and then Table 31.

The only minor service glich of the night was the long gap between us polishing our app specials and the steaks. I'll chalk it up to us having a large party and also that they probably wanted to see how many bottles of wine we could slug before our steaks came out. We were all way too full for dessert.

Towards the end of our meal Jeffrey Lurie and Al Michaels came in and sat a few tables over. Michaels got up to presumably go to the bathroom and someone in our party asked him what he thought about the Eagles, so he walked over and talked to us for a few minutes. He seemed like a very cool dude. After tax and tip it broke down to $145 a head. We had some pricey apps and quite a few bottles of wine towards the low-end of their list, so I'm sure you could get out of there for much less than we did. All in all it was a very good night.

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

A co-worker and I went to Table 31 Wednesday night. Silly me, for some reason I thought it got its name because it was on the 31st floor of the Comcast Center (I obviously made that up!). The atmosphere is very nice, not too loud and good-looking decor, and the bar looks pretty inviting.

The sommelier paid us a visit. He is Spanish and we couldn't understand a lot of what he said because of his accent, but he was highly recommending a Malbec to go with our steaks and after bringing us a taste, we ordered a bottle, for $40. It was very spicy and tasty and despite feeling like it was pushed on us a bit, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

We decided not to order apps, to save room for dessert.

For a main, we each got the steak special, and I apologize that I can't remember the name of it but it came in a very hot skillet and was covered with mozzarella and tomatoes. The steak came with roasted potatoes (very average) and spinach (very average). Tables are given a basket of very good sour dough bread. The steak, which I believe they said was hand-cut in-house, was delicious and accurately cooked medium rare as requested.

We split a pumpkin cheescake. Aside from being quite small (which I guess in this post-Christmas period isn't a bad thing) it was just okay. Instead of a piece of cheesecake it is an individually cooked cheesecake and the exterior was a little rubbery.

Service was good. We both said we'd come back when we had more time to try more items on the menu. Also for two people, the bar looks like a pretty friendly place to eat, drink and watch a game.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...

I returned with my wife to Table 31 for dinner. It was expensive (nearly $100/person) with drinks, tax and tip. We ate at the bar. The service was exceptionally warm and unpretentious. I think I unintentionally pissed off our server several times but she hid it well and did not spit in my drink or anything like that. Actually, the place the service reminded me of was...Brasserie Perrier.

I thought the food was excellent. I did not like my veal (I thought it overcooked) but everything else we had was delicious. Drinks were strong. While we enjoyed the steaks last time, this time we focused on the expanded Italian menu.

My only gripe is the vibe: the place is not nearly busy enough for a Saturday night in a lonely spot in the "bad part of town (from a vibe perspective)."

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of wonderful chefs in Philly, and I love Garces and Vetri as much as the next guy, but Scarduzio's Italian offerings are delicious in a rub-your-belly way that Vetri's intellectualized Italian at Osteria could never be for me, and he is the only chef in Philly who cooks stuff I would cross town to eat specifically because his name is on it, because it is a guarantee that I will be treated well and that most of my meal will be delicious.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...