This was it: my big chance. For years I have yearned to fill my home with restaurant-quality paraphernalia. Just the practical stuff – an industrial stand mixer, ice bins, counter-top convection ovens, deep fryers - and restaurant closings were the perfect opportunity to snag one or all of these at a huge discount (insert “Jews are cheap” joke).
Eagerly, I made my way to the former Paul K. space to assess the bounty that surely awaited my arrival. Instead, I was met by the picked-over remnants of the day prior. All that lay before me were the outcasts of the culinary tool spectrum - creamers, plastic pitchers, a toothpick holder.
That is, until I set my eyes on her. She was gorgeous, slender and looked like she could pull about three at a time. A little used and WAY out of my league.
Just how I like ‘em.
The new owner intended to have coffee service, but just couldn’t find the space for it and only wanted to get his money back. For a measly $1,200, this professional-grade espresso machine could sit in my very own kitchen. I envisioned myself grinding, tamping and pulling perfect shots on my new Rolls Royce of a coffee machine as I mastered the art of latte…art. After chatting off the ear of the man behind the counter, I left empty-handed to ponder the potential of my caffeinated future.
My internal debate lasted approximately the length of my walk home, until some semblance of rationality struck me and I reluctantly sent an apology tweet that I would not be going home with my love. He told me not to worry, and extended an open invitation to stop by for a meal.
Glowing reviews and a few months of Twitter-talk passed, I finally took him up on the offer and landed myself a reservation at Rich Table with a few friends. Our order of thick-cut fennel levain with perfectly room temperature, salted, cultured butter arrived from none other than Chef Evan himself, the very same man whose espresso machine I turned down weeks earlier. Expressing joy with a smile from ear to ear that I had finally made the pilgrimage, Chef welcomed us with open arms, conversed for a few moments, and set back to the kitchen.
A barrage of starters followed: sardine chips, corn fritters and plancha bread with squash blossoms.
I could not resist the “Popcorn Soup,” which sounded as oddly delicious as it tasted. Warm, buttery, and laden with chunks of popped kernels, the puréed movie snack was elevated to higher ground, and easily replaced my go-to Bunch-A-Crunch as my cinematic snack of choice. Rich Table also shines in its ability to extract the essence of even the simplest ingredients, while still adding an unexpected twist, as they did with the roasted beets, burrata, buckwheat and sprouting greens.
Until the duck lasagna.
In addition to the incredible amount of food we ordered, Chef Evan sent out another dish, just for kicks - as he did on my second appearance a few weeks later. He even used us a guinea pigs to test out a dish with which he was playing, and currently resides on the menu: tagliatelle with pork bolognaise, apples and almonds: a heavenly combination.
It goes a long way.
Evan’s wife, Sarah, does double duty with the additional role of pastry chef, and does not disappoint. Grilled olive oil cake with strawberries and cream cheese ice cream screams a summer picnic, the mint chocolate cream with milk ice cream and chocolate cookies was described as, "Christmas in a dessert," (whatever that tastes like...) and the almond cake of sorts with yogurt mousse and marmalade pin-pointed a deconstructed cheesecake.
All were hits.
There will always be chefs who make stellar food, and the bar will continue to rise. But not everyone has the time or inclination to treat you like a family member from the get-go.
That is why I come back.