Just like the old Shopsin's restaurant was part corner store, part diner, the new restaurant debuting at the same location is part high-end deli and part sit-down New American comfort-food emporium. Hence the name Market Table: part market, part table. In the photo below the dining area is in the foreground and the store shelves are in the distance beyond the door. Located at the corner of Carmine and Bedford Streets, the dining room features butcher block tables and tasteful lighting. There is definitely a rustic country house feel, but as one reviewer said, they don't hit you over the head with a rolling pin about it.
My adventurous dining partner Jamie and I managed to snag a reservation for last Friday night, but we had to resort to the 5:30 time slot. So the part market/part table became part lunch/part supper. Lupper.
We began with a winning medium-bodied white wine from the Cinque Terre region of Liguria, Italy. Jamie ordered the crispy calamari, which were moist and not at all rubbery. But there were surprises to be had! Tucked away in the pile were a few pieces of intense white anchovy. Eek! Fish bomb! And if you look very closely at the photo, you will notice that at the top of the pile are a few thin cross-section slices of lemon, breaded and fried. Now, that was a delightful surprise!I ordered the gnocchi with short ribs, escarole and parmesan, because short ribs are my weakness. Oh God, don't get me started. And these ribs didn't disappoint, although the gnocchi were a tad gummy.
Next Jamie went for the Maryland crab cake, singular in this case, and a lovely, rich specimen at that, presented atop a bed of savoy slaw and twinned with perfectly browned hand-cut fries. Talk about comfort food!
I couldn't resist the grilled Arctic char, a lean red fish akin to wild salmon. The last time I ate Arctic char was actually in the Arctic, but this was even better. The fish was perfectly cooked to buttery, melty medium-rare perfection. But the skin was the real surprise here. Although I usually eschew fish skin, this time I decided to chew it! The skin was crispy and light and provided the perfect contrast to the tender flesh. The blackening lent it a bitter undertone, but a few plump and sweet golden raisins resolved this nicely.
As good as the char was, the supporting character in this dish almost stole the show. Nestled beneath the fillet was a generous warm dollop of mushroom-radicchio risotto. A number of different types of mushrooms added interest, and the cream of the risotto was balanced nicely by the acid notes of balsamic vinegar drizzled around the perimeter.
Well, no meal is complete without a fine dessert, so Jamie ordered the pistachio muffin with a schmear of mascarpone cheese and an accompaniment of roasted pear. It's a playful touch to see a muffin on a menu like this. Nothing thrilling, but the pears were nice.
Did someone say "thrilling"? In moments like these, it's hard to beat chocolate. That's why I ordered the devil's food cake with chocolate-sour cream frosting and chocolate gelato. Oddly, the cake was a bit dry and almost tough, but all was forgiven (in fact, forgotten) upon tasting the gelato. I mean, I didn't just forget about the cake, or even the preceding meal; I forgot my name and address. This gelato was sick. My eyes rolled back in my head, and just as Jamie was about to dial 911, I managed to utter the phrase, "Try the gelato." She did so, and was "stirred."After a little research, I discovered that the gelato comes from an outside source, namely Il Laboratorio del Gelato of the Lower East Side. I sense a field trip coming on (and subsequent blog, of course). This photo is really quite telling because, as Jamie observed, "It looks like the cake is licking the ice cream (and who could blame the cake?)." Who, indeed.