Restaurant review: Six Tables Tampa

This deceptively low-key restaurant offers complex cuisine in simple environs.

Posted by Jon Palmer Claridge on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 12:02 PM

****
CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner

The end of a nondescript shopping center. For some web YELPers, that doesn’t justify the price point. True, Henderson Road lacks the excitement and glitter of St. Pete’s Beach Drive, but that scene often looks better than it eats — much of the fare sounds good but ends up unexciting. For me, Six Tables is like stepping into an intimate bistro on Paris’s Rive Gauche. True, the streets are asphalt instead of cobblestone and the river is nowhere in sight, but where some see ceiling lattice and diminutive fairy lights peeking through gauze and find it lacking, I see the antique wood china cabinet and the six-panel screen in the corner painted with what seem to be giant peonies (sorry if I’ve got the wrong flower, nature is not my strong suit).

Yes, the room is simple and largely unadorned, but my dining group finds it very romantic. The lights are low, the candle sparkles in a crystal holder on your table, there’s china and silver galore, plus crisp white linens and lots of space between tables. Dainty salt and pepper shakers and a vase of fresh daisies complete the picture. The Pachelbel Canon and other classical gems play softly in the background. Nice.

Yes, the cooking is old-school, but the flavors are clean and the technique is impeccable. Chef Roland Levi, who originally came up with the Six Tables concept, was Belgian. Come to think of it, there’s a very Belgian feel; I could also see a restaurant just like this off Le Grand Place, the main square in Brussels with tourists and locals alike happily eating six courses and staring into the eyes of their “amours.”

There’s no menu at Six Tables, just a welcoming greeting by chef Robert Bottini. He explains his bill of fare and prix fixe concept and you’re off and running — no, make that strolling — through six leisurely courses determined by the best products available at that day’s market.
Chef Robert Bottini. - CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner
  • Chef Robert Bottini.

Dinner opens with a welcoming flute of prosecco. The acidity of the bubbly nicely complements a crustless Yukon gold and dandelion green tart. It floats in a colorful paprika aioli with a bright green parsley oil drizzle; it’s almost like Christmas.

Chef includes a small sliced loaf of herbes de Provence quick bread fragrant with lavender, and a tiny glass terrine filled to the brim with sweet and creamy honey butter. The combo is transporting; visions of French countryside dance in my head.

Two delightful choices are offered for the soup course: creamy crab bisque and a chowder of sweet corn with shiitake. Both are lusciously and decadently old school — be sure you take your statins.

That’s followed by a crisp mesclun salad with julienned roasted cauliflower and cucumbers, plus a few small heirloom tomato halves in a light olive vinaigrette that is assertive, but does not overwhelm.

On our visit, chef Bottini’s entree offerings include pork tenderloin with coffee syrup, Cornish game hen with Campari demi-glacé, duck breast with mustard glacé, and lemon sole in a green onion reduction. We settle for the duck and fish, which are well-seasoned, perfectly cooked and accompanied by crunchy, bright green mangetout (sugar snap peas).

The cheese course highlights a long wedge of 3-month-old Wisconsin “Asiago” topped with a dollop of tart, garlicky dill pickle relish. An interesting trio of accompaniments includes julienned strawberries buzzing with jalapeño, cashews candied with cardamom, and soft raisins plumped with Champagne and brown sugar.

The dessert options are a dense chocolate mousse piped in the center of a plate and surrounded with luscious liquid salted caramel, or a silky panna cotta with passion fruit coulis and a thick “lemonade” sauce. Neither explodes on the palate, but they are a perfectly pleasant way to end the meal.

At $90, Six Tables may seem steep for six traditional courses, but frequent discounts are available through Groupon or Living Social. And granted, there isn’t much info on the wine pairing, but the $30 wine flight includes four ample pours: soft pinot blanc, bracing Argentine torrontés, Cote de Gascogne cab/merlot blend, and a full-bodied California Zin.

It’s up to you to weigh how a six-course meal in a simple, intimate environment without any bells and whistles falls into your scale of value. Personally, if this were America’s Got Talent, I’d send Six Tables through to Vegas. 

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