"Take five" is playing when I walk through the doors of Table 17. Old Dave Brubek is still an arbiter of cool jazz and so suited to the room I find myself in. Fronted by a casual dining space, the bar is beatnik black with an intimate feel and echoes of classic bars. Mediterranean riffs present themselves in the form of a pannini sandwich board, displaying a selection of the daily wares to entice you. Chef Sinopoli flits behind the black menu board wall, all business, in this busy bottleneck of Riverside.
Over in the connecting room, the sun pours in through the massive picture windows and opens the space up to a crowd that's artsy, romantic and even business-like. Just in front of the bar area, "yummy mummies" with babes-in-arms are comfortable nestling down, as are a few dressed down "suits" discussing while they dine. The odd few couples' linger over empty plates and glasses of biodynamic wines well into the eveningÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
The harvest table stands like a modern day still life, with bulbous pewter shaded water pitchers, bread baskets and all sorts of condiments. This main dining room was formerly an old neighbourhood mainstay, the ramshackled "Newell's Diner". The reno brought rustic wood plank walls out of hiding and gave the room an earthy, yet sophisticated "Up Country" feel; paired with flowery chandeliers, moss green and slate grey walls, you have a farm styled to the beat of a city groove. (There's also a more recent addition of a private dining room upstairs, which is lovely.)
Back to the bar, the exclusive cocktail list, created by Mike Morrow, is classic, yet laced with retro cool. Finally, the return to old school drink making has found its way on Queen Street East! From "bling" drinks like the French 75 or the Velvet Swing to Manhattans, rye or Bourbon sours and even Asian inspired cocktails, the spirited drinks list is a head turner. The wine list sounds adventurous with both Old and New World bottles, to all the classic blends and varietals in reds, whites and roses. (I'm always enchanted to see personal faves like Albarino, and this varietal could be had from both Spain and as a transplant from Down Under.)
Lunch service will take a hiatus throughout August with Table 17's popular midday menu slated to return September 9th. Whatever you're after, the best value that's packing in the patrons is the Sunday/Monday "Bring Your Own Wine" night, according to manager Gavin Holmes. Absolutely no corkage fee is charged! Splurge for a Champagne cocktail and a prix-fixe dinner ($29) and you're looking at a very reasonable night out. If prix-fixe doesn't tempt, try an appetizer such as the Diver Scallops ($15) or mains like the bistro Steak Frites ($21) or the Lake Huron Pickerel ($22). Shareable plates make ideal sides like Polenta ($14), Charcuterie ($15) or roasted heirloom baby beets with blue cheese ($7). Chef John Sinopoli likes to support local suppliers, yet keep a menu with international flair. As a chef partner with John Dawson and Erik Joyal, previously of New York and Izakaya fame, Sinopoli returns from Japanese food culture to his Mediterranean roots. The neighbourhood seems to love the mix of Spanish, Italian and French influenced fare, along with Table 17's jazzy country vibe.
As an aside, you can also keep up to date Table 17's special events and anecdotes while connecting with the team through their Twitter account @Table17 or http://www.twitter.com/table17/
FIVE STARS: (Extraordinary) A one-of-a-kind, world-class experience.
FOUR STARS: (Excellent) Superior. Memorable, high-quality menus and/or savvy service.
THREE STARS: (Good) Solid places that beckon with generally appealing cooking.
TWO STAR: (Fair) Just OK. A place not worth rushing back to. But, it might have something worth recommending.
ONE STAR: (Poor) Below-average restaurant.
*Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
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