Table 301, let’s just start this off with the fact that I want you to prove me wrong and I know you can.
Upon arrival at your space, there is no doubt that IDA Architecture’s design is astounding: yellows and grays are met with stamped concrete floors covered in hand painted details, mirrored spaces that expand the overall depth, and a patio area that is truly—and I really mean this—unmatched in DTLB. Hell, it even has its own separate bar, a joyous place where everyone should spend their thirsty hours. Repeat: go and have a beer (cocktail menu still needs work) but before you think about food…
To go with its massive space is an equally expansive menu, one that is perhaps dipped in delusions of grandeur and feels more dissociative than cohesive: Mexican meets Greek meets Soul Food meets Carnival Food meets Italian meets meets meets… Unfortunately it also meets a complete lack of quality and execution.
It is here where disappointment is met with intense frustration: The space itself is so incredible—entirely open walls make it feel like, on a day with a slight breeze, you’re on a Mediterranean coastline—that the food should match it.
It does not.
Let’s start with their pizzas, which I’ve now made the mistake of ordering three times.
One obvious thing must be said aloud and clearly here: When you have the audacity to start making pizzas in a city that is home to La Parolaccia—a joint that’s been doing stellar wood-oven pizzas for well over a decade—and directly across the street from Michael’s—whose Napolitano-style pies are some of the best in the entire region—you best be slingin’ out spectacularly created rounds of Italy-on-a-plate.
Instead, there is a constant question of whether the kitchen knows how to use the wood oven or create a pizza.
Sometimes—in my case, when ordering their potato “white pizza”—they come out looking like something between an intense medical condition and a child throwing some rabbit droppings onto a slab of dough.
Sometimes, they come out looking like something was murdered and then topped with slices of basil, like their Margherita “pizza” (which has an overwhelming sweetness to it that reminds me of Prego). Just a few notes: Basil turns a dark brown and black when cooked for too long; either throw it on the pizza post-baking or use full leaves and amp up your oven heat. (Furthermore, Michael’s gives a free Margherita every Monday when you purchase another one of their pizzas; go and see what a Margherita is supposed to look like. Also when there, you can see what a potato pie is supposed to look like.)
Sometimes, they come out so incredibly burnt that it prompts someone on Yelp! to take a picture of someone else’s pizza because it looks like it came out of the fifth level of hell. (And I will be entirely frank: as a food writer and lover, I think Yelp! is one of the worst tools ever to exist for restaurants, providing anyone and everyone the opportunity to give a restaurant a one-star review because of no valet service; here, however, is one of the shining examples of how it can be a tool for restaurants to clean up their act.)
Then there’s an assortment of other issues.
The green hummus, which uses a supposed variety of herbs to create a split pea-looking, dry paste smeared with a single, sad stroke on its serving dish (and not a drop of olive oil or some pine nuts to spruce up its sorrow) evokes “The Exorcist” on a plate. (While we’re mentioning neighbors, you guys should head to Ammatolí two doors down to taste a genuinely decent hummus.)
Their poor po’ boy sandwich—a staple of the South that brings in the richness of the ocean with the complexity of Soul Food and something I made the mistake of ordering twice in the blind hope it could provide that comfort I love from better versions of it—is served on a depressing baguette, its accoutrements (including an array of jarred pickle slices that cut through the saltiness of the batter) hidden under over-fried, over-battered shrimp (and sometimes, if you’re lucky, just fried balls of batter). White and brown. Here ya go.
I can go on and on—don’t even get me started on the stale, did-you-really-just-dump-these-out-of-a-bag “chicharrones” that are tossed in what tasted like the dry powder from Kraft mac’n’cheese boxes—but the largest point here to be taken is that I genuinely believe the kitchen can and should do better. It’s really that simple. With a space that incredible, this shouldn’t be the the end of it but rather a rocky beginning.
Again, I can’t wait for you to prove me wrong, Table 301 (whose owners, I might mention, formerly owned and operated Delius in Signal Hill)—and again, I know you can.
Table 301 is located at 301 The Promenade North.
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