Reno Gazette Journal profiles new chef's table
Location: Charlie Palmer Steak, Reno
Click here to explore the full article.
« Return to News & Events
Welcome to the chef's table -- wherever you're seated
Johnathan L. Wright
Reno Gazette Journal
Many fine dining restaurants have a chef's table -- sometimes in the kitchen itself, but more often in a nook or private room nearby. Groups book the table -- and VIPs get stashed there -- for some extra pampering: special courses, thoughtful wine pairings, and frequent tableside visits by the chef and sommelier to discuss the food and wine.
In Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, the Charlie Palmer restaurants -- Briscola, Fin Fish and Charlie Palmer Steak -- recently introduced a new service that expands the chef's table experience from a single party to the dining room at large.
It's called, appropriately, "The Chef's Table." Folks book the experience when they make a reservation. They select a seasonal, frequently changing, four- or five-course "Chef's Table" menu (each Palmer restaurant offers three or four).
The chef introduces and explains each course, and the sommelier consults on wine pairings.
"This allows us to keep creating new flavor dynamics, to keep pushing ourselves," executive chef David Holman said. "We all love creating new dishes and giving them to the guests."
"Chef's Table" menus mix dishes created especially for the program, regular menu items that have been tweaked, and dishes under consideration for a menu debut.
At Charlie Palmer Steak, "Chef's Table" one week might feature market oysters, swordfish ceviche (one of a trio) and a brawny bone-in rib-eye.
At Fin Fish, the selection could include heaps of chilled seafood, black cod swaddled in crisp potato strips and seared sea scallops with a swipe of spring morels in cream.
At Briscola, "Chef's Table" might encompass pancetta-wrapped pork loin; a hearty toss of sausage, peppers and housemade spaghetti; and a lovely terrine formed by pressing together tomato water jelly, housemade mozzarella and roasted tomatoes.
So, how is "Chef's Table" different from the tasting menus many restaurants serve?
Availability, for one, the Palmer folks said. With a reservation, "Chef's Table" can be experienced any night. Having a crew as large as Palmer's -- dozens in front and back -- makes it much easier to offer special menus without shortchanging other diners.
"All the other guests are getting their wants and needs seen to -- that would never change," Holman said. "But 'Chef's Table' really helps us deliver something that is more intricate and more personal. We can give an insider's view."
Holman said that personal touch also helped distinguish "Chef's Table" from a standard tasting menu.
"It's all hands on deck. Everyone 'touches' the table frequently," he continued, using an industry term.
Not just the chef and sommelier, but managers, waiters, food runners and bussers, too.
(There isn't someone handing diners a new fork for every bite, but almost.)
Folks who want an even more personalized "Chef's Table" experience can meet with Holman and a sommelier to create their own menu. Variations on a theme of tomatoes? Something built around truffles? Or game? Absolutely.
"As long as we can get the ingredients, we can do it," Holman said. "Everything will be hand selected. I will cook each dish."
Put to the challenge, Holman discussed and then created a personalized menu one recent evening that incorporated dishes from all three Palmer restaurants.
The chef crusted tuna flown in from the Honolulu fish market with togarashi, the Japanese chili pepper spice mixture.
A shiso leaf brushed with egg wash, sprinkled with sugar and then dehydrated garnished the tuna. The leaf delivered a sweet bite, mint crossed with fennel, before almost dissolving on the tongue.
Holman's housemade pappardelle coiled atop a dollop of Bolognese made spicy with roasted jalapeño. Torn basil soothed the spice.
A meltingly tender paillard of beef tenderloin -- a bit bigger than a playing card, the perfect size -- consorted with a butter-drenched hunk of lobster and spring ramps in puffy tempura.
The menu closed with a cylinder of vanilla cheesecake covered in a cascade of organic blueberries; a lemon cookie added zing.
This enhanced "Chef's Table" wasn't quite like employing a private chef, but it seemed like the next best thing.