by Andrew Chalk
Sfuzzi’s has gone and the Irving location has become Table & Tavern, a conceptual mash-up of English pub and cozy club room restaurant. The “tavern” part is actually three bars and two patios serving up cocktails built around Texas spirits, craft beers from Peticolas, Deep Ellum, Franconia, Real Ale and Brooklyn Brewery, and a predominantly California wine list (just two Texas wines are listed among the 42 selections) priced at about 3x retail. Thrice weekly there is live music. Although the full menu is available in the bar, most bar patrons order from the separate bar menu consisting of snacks. Private dining rooms are available as well. All in, the 300-seat establishment creates a lot of possibilities.
The “table” part is the separate dining area, notable for its dark-paneled walls. It creates a clubby, cosy feel that almost harks back to an earlier era. I recommend the comfortable booths away from the trafficked routes if its privacy and comfort that you want.
I sampled some dishes at a recent media event. The menu is parade of proven hits – no esoterica here. Table & Tavern (T&T) wants to start you with a fulsome baked brie draped in a check-pattern of viscous balsamic accompanied by crostini ($13), or a bowl of mussels in a tasty broth with spicy sausage, Shiner Bock and braised fennel ($14). However, my favorite dish was the tuna tartare, chopped medium dice and served on a smear of harissa with avocado, onions and fennel ($15). The tuna was a heat sink for the fiery harissa and the accompaniments, especially the onion, supplied extra nuances to the flavors.
On to main courses and the short rib ($26) is a stand out. It comes with sweet onion purée, semolina gnocchi, baby carrots, cipollini onions. The hefty chunk of meat falls apart under spoon pressure while a mouthful of purée here and a forkful of gnocchi there melds the varied flavors together in the mouth.
Cioppino ($24) is an example of a rarity on Dallas menus (maybe it is the prep. time involved) so lovers of this Italian soup will be happy to see it. T&T serves the soup over spaghetti in the bowl but purists might want to pass on the pasta.
The bone-in cowboy ribeye ($42) is a steakaholic’s delight, served with bacon and T-1 steak sauce (a kind of weaponized A-1 steak sauce). It is a big meal that you might want to doggie bag for the next day’s lunch.
After an aperitif cocktail called a Wrangler ($9) built from Texas whiskey with strawberry, basil, syrup, lemon and ginger aIe I stuck with beer from the credible craft beer list for the remainder of the meal. The Peticolas Velvet Hammer and Deep Ellum Dream Crusher had a kind of earthy sensibility that pairs well with T&T’s food. Chef Leilani Smith trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Dallas and worked at Brackets and Silver Fox Steakhouse before joining T&T as sous chef, prior to her subsequent promotion to execuchef. She executed all the dishes well and came out to the dining room to discuss them.
Table & Tavern replaced the tired Spuzzi spot in this location and does itself look eminently chainable in the increasingly crowded tavern/bar/gastropub field. Going forward, they have to keep the execution slick and explore that live music angle.