The Gossiping Gourmet: Edgy comfort food served up at Red Table
Red Table, a spacious new dining spot, has opened in Huntington Beach with a very casual vibe and an edgy interpretation of comfort food.
Chef Louis Jocson calls it a “gastro bar” with craft beers and fine wines. The whole concept is slightly unconventional, from the eclectic décor to the menu to the style of service.
The lofty ceiling is supported by big steel girders and cinderblock walls, which seem to absorb some of the noise since the room is buzzy but not loud. There are half a dozen different kinds of light fixtures, ranging from chandeliers to giant baskets. The art is equally quirky, with gilt-framed impressionistic scenes as well as large graphic images, including one that reads, “Eat your vegetables.”
The room is divided by two faux-branch sculptured hedges, which surround the huge communal “red table.” There is a big open kitchen in the rear with a counter in front of it where you order your food. Self-seating includes booths, tables and the bar, which extends the entire length of the room. The overall feeling is rustic, unpretentious, funky and hip.
You place your order at the counter, all at once, or a few items at a time, then take a number. They’ll keep your tab open. A server brings the food and beverages to your table. (Table service is offered, but it takes much longer and it’s really not their style.)
What is edgy comfort food? How about five different kinds of French fries, from Bollywood with Madras curry and chutney to Samurai with nori, sesame seeds and wasabi mayo? All plates are listed under Share and Share More except for dessert, which is listed as Share If You Want.
We started off with the Southern fries, sweet potato fries that came with a bacon chive aioli. Big mistake! They were so crispy and delicious that we couldn’t stop eating them, and we still didn’t even make a dent in the generous portion. The “aioli” was quite flavorful and complemented the fries nicely, although we didn’t taste any bacon.
To balance out the fries, our next course was a salad. Nicely seared fresh albacore, cut into small pieces, provided the protein in a mountain of jicama, carrots, cabbage and mizuna (a leafy Japanese green). Thick, crunchy little squares of seasoned wontons added some texture, and although the sesame dressing was tasty, there was just too much — it weighed down the greens.
Three flatbreads are available, one of which is the daily special. That night, they featured spicy shrimp and arugula with cheese (mozzarella and Parmesan?) on a nice thin, crispy base. The excellent, good-sized shrimp had a pleasant touch of heat, and the arugula added a peppery spiciness.
We ordered the grilled shrimp noodles with garlic expecting the classic Asian dish, but this was pure Italy. Spaghetti, perfectly al dente, was lightly sauced with chive oil and dotted with cherry tomatoes, nuggets of asparagus and more of the plump, juicy shrimp. It was mildly flavored and not as interesting as our other dishes.
A nice feature of the dessert menu is that two of the selections, cannoli and chocolate truffles, can be ordered by the piece, giving you a chance to try more than one dessert. We are big on cannoli these days, and this crunchy baby, with milk chocolate bits in the ricotta filling, was a good one.
Our other dessert, broken banana cream pie, would probably have fed the entire group sitting at the big red table. We were daunted by the size of it and much too full to take more than a few bites of this rich concoction of caramelized bananas on custard crème, drizzled with caramel sauce and topped with a mound of whipped cream.
The menu has as much variety as the décor, with an infinite number of combinations to please your palate and your pocketbook.
ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ were in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. They can be reached for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Red TableWhere: 16821 Algonquin St., Huntington Harbour Mall, Huntington Beach
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
Share plates: $4 to $11
Soups and salads: $4 to $13
Flat breads and sandwiches: $10 to $12
Entrées: $12 to $16
Desserts: $1.25 to $5
Bottles: $21 to $65
By the glass: $6 to $10
Corkage fee: $10
Information: (714) 846-4700 or https://www.redtablerestaurants.com