If, like me, you can't help but watch Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give every single time it airs on TBS — which is almost weekly — then you probably also spend a lot of time wishing for two things: a fabulous art-and-book-filled beach house, like the one where Keaton's character lives, and a roast-chicken-and-frîtes-filled restaurant, like the one where Jack and Diane reunite in Paris.
I don't know what to tell you about the beach house, but for the roast chicken, there's Table 3, the long-awaited project of the F. Scott's team, which debuted this fall in the former space of Princeton's Grille and Bistro 215.
As a bistro concept in Green Hills, Table 3 kills two culinary birds with one stone — casual French cuisine and independent dining — both of which have been under-represented in the neighborhood. F. Scott's owners Elise Loehr and Wendy Burch, along with chef Will Uhlhorn — a partner in the new venture — took over the space in the summer of 2009, and gave the dark rooms a sleek and spare makeover, with warm white brick, a mosaic on the foyer floor, white subway tiles on the back wall, zinc bar tops and aged mirrors. Booths in the bar area became tables; the side porch became a market that will sell sandwiches, pastries, fresh-baked baguettes and coffee.
Promoting former sous chef Kevin Ramquist to chef de cuisine at F. Scott's, Uhlhorn migrated across the mall parking lot to the less-formal Table 3, where he oversees a menu of classic French dishes including onion soup, moules frîtes, cassoulet, Croque Madame (the egg-topped sister of Croque Monsieur) and — bien sûr — succulent roast chicken with lemon-butter pan sauce over pureed potatoes and garlic spinach.
When reviewing restaurants, the Scene generally makes two visits to get a well-rounded sense of the menu, service and ambiance. We don't need to go four times — in fact, the paper's accountant begs us not to go four times. But in the case of Table 3, we couldn't help ourselves, and on each visit we encountered another outstanding, well-priced dish, from the $16 flatiron of Niman Ranch prime steak with crisp melt-in-your-mouth fries, to the $9 steak tartare studded with capers and blanketed with golden egg yolk.
Among the most elegant items to arrive at the table was the duck confit. The delicately trimmed leg was roasted to deep bronze, with succulent dark meat beneath glistening, crisp skin. Nestled on a bed of pearly baby lentils tossed with goat cheese, almonds, diced tomatoes and golden raisins, and finished with a honey-dijon drizzle, the stunning still life of an appetizer could double as a small entrée.
If you are strategic enough to dine on Thursday, take advantage of the daily blue plate special of roasted rabbit over fettuccine, tossed with mushrooms, pearl onions and a silky pan sauce of cream, stock, wine and mustard, infused with Benton's bacon. The delicate layering of salty, earthy, smoky and sweet flavors makes this dish a unique and sumptuous comfort food, although its presentation is visually similar to that of the duck, so you might want to avoid doubling up Donald and Thumper in one visit.
If your mental picture of trout with almonds involves a skillet with fish skeleton and browned nuts sizzling in a quarter-inch pool of bubbling butter, think again. Uhlhorn & Co. bring a light touch to tender fillets striped with grill marks across silver skin, plated with crisp green beans tossed with almonds and crème fraîche and adorned with salty ruffles of chewy Benton's pancetta.
If there were one disappointment in our dining experience, it was the confusion over the shellfish menu, which lists oysters, lobster and shrimp cocktail, available at market price by the piece, the dozen or the half-dozen. When we inquired about these fruits de mer, our server had little information about the selection, presentation or price, and seemed to steer us away from the menu section altogether.
Table 3 derives much of its charm from deft interpretations of classic dishes, but it also benefits from Uhlhorn's of-the-moment creativity, an ingenuity perhaps best displayed in the ever-changing so-called "flatbread du jour." A cousin of the French pissaliadière, this improvised thin-crust delicacy emerges from the oven with a crisp-baked bottom that simultaneously shatters and stretches, providing a perfect canvas for combinations such as herbed mascarpone, roast chicken, leeks and garlic oil or pureed potatoes, duck confit, gruyere and spicy-sweet pepper jelly. At $11 each, these inspirations make convenient shared starters or light entrées.
In its first two months, Table 3 has turned into a fast favorite for both lunch and dinner, and we're eagerly awaiting the November launch of the market, which will brew coffee from Humphreys Street Coffee Co., a local roaster that operates as a mentoring and entrepreneurship program for young men in South Nashville.
That said, we haven't put the fledgling eatery through the paces of the pre-cinema rush, when we arrive with rabid appetites, a 7:15 movie time next door at the Regal and $20 of Fandango-ed tickets on the line. Most of our experiences have been leisurely Sazerac- and sidecar-sipping affairs with no haste on either our part or the part of our servers. When we do have a specific curtain-up deadline, we'll be sure to mention it as we're seated. Meanwhile, Uhlhorn is currently drafting a pre-cinema menu with moviegoers in mind.
On the other hand, if opening credits get rolling before you get to the apple bread pudding with candied bacon ice cream or goat cheesecake with fig-and-port compote, you might reconsider your evening plan and let the film slide — you'll be able to catch it on cable soon enough.
Table 3 serves lunch and dinner daily and Sunday brunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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