Table 34, quietly and unobtrusively located on Warm Springs, near Interstate 215, is a cozy fine dining establishment serving “thoughtful contemporary American” cuisine. Close to the airport, and in an area surrounded by chain restaurants and small motels, it is an oasis in a desert of often mediocre dining.
The location was formerly known as Wild Sage; its newest incarnation is Table 34. It is still headed by the management staff from Wild Sage, and the Executive Chef remains Wes Kendrick. Situated among office buildings, and housed under a dome in a building with a bank, a submarine sandwich shop, and an espresso shop, the restaurant doesn’t necessarily scream ‘fine dining.’ Walk up the terrace in front, though, and through the front doors, and watch a world of fine dining open up to greet you.
Stepping into Table 34, you experience how alluring dining off the strip can be. It is intimate, subdued, classy, and exudes an elegance that the incessant jingling of slots in the background simply cannot. The atmosphere is romantic and quiet, but still easily accommodates a party of six without disturbing other diners. The tables are lovely, with beautiful linens, and formal place settings. The walls are richly hued in tones of cranberry, olive, and deep yellow tones. One wall has only a large assortment of beautifully framed mirrors adorning it. Another has a large mural. Near the front of the restaurant is a compact, but fully stocked bar, with limited seating.
We arrive on a Thursday evening. We enter after admiring the patio, and the friendly host quickly ushers us to our table. We can’t help but notice the large wall-sized wine rack behind our table. Our four dining companions have not yet arrived, so we sit and peruse the impressive wine list, and enjoy the calm serenity surrounding us. Our server, Rich, introduces himself and helps select a wine. He’s formally attired, and offers a wealth of knowledge on the winery and its history as well. He returns with a 2005 MacMurray Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, per his recommendation. It’s full-bodied, rich, and complements the eclectic blend of dishes we are to have this evening. He also brings a basket of assorted breads and savory muffins that are dangerously good.
Our dining companions arrive, and we begin our culinary journey. Rich magically appears, as if on cue, and pours more wine. We order our appetizers, and they arrive shortly. First, we have Grilled Maine Sea Scallops with braised greens and Dijon barbecue sauce. The six large, diver-sized sea scallops are grilled slightly crispy on the outside, and are perfect, creamy, and sweet on the inside. The greens are nicely braised in the tangy barbecue sauce. They’re not soupy, or lost in the sauce, and they maintain their texture; the peppery greens and the barbecue sauce accompany one another well.
Our next starter is the Grilled Beef Satays with Cabernet Reduction and crispy fried onions. This is a fun dish. It’s the closest anything comes to finger food. The four satays arrive on skewers and the fried onions resemble a big haystack of onion straws. The beef is soft and tender, and melts in our mouths. The cabernet reduction is very subtle, and only flavors the dish slightly; the largest part of its appeal comes from the beef itself and the seasonings. One of my dining companions is my teenage son, and he finds this dish irresistible, for the ‘fun’ factor.
Our final appetizer to arrive is the Duck Confit Quesadilla with Spicy Blackberry Syrah Coulis. It’s a total knockout. The quesadilla is served in wedges, and the coulis is drizzled on top. There are some micro greens topped with berries beside it as well. The duck confit isn’t cloying or too heavy, and the coulis on top provides a sweet, light contrast to the richness of the duck. The savory and sweet is such a superb balance – I could be finished now, and be completely satisfied.
But alas, our entrees are placed in front of us. Rich has gently guided us to the entrees that we might like the best, and his suggestions are spot-on. We all try one another’s dinners, and each is as thoughtfully prepared as the last. First, the All Beef Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and onion gravy is brought out. An American comfort food classic, Mom only wishes she made hers like this. The savory aroma of the rich onion gravy precedes the dish to the table. It’s hearty, well seasoned, and so flavorful that adding salt or catsup would only insult this dish. The meatloaf is served in two thick slabs at perpendicular angles, beside the mashed potatoes and gravy as well as steamed carrots and broccoli. It’s perfect in its simplicity, and not too fussy. There is only one caveat to this dish: be hungry, or prepare to take some home.
Seared Alaskan Halibut is also delivered to our table. It is served with mixed greens, chili-mint vinaigrette, and fresh melon. This dish is the most decadent salad I’ve ever seen. It has a beautifully seared piece of halibut atop a fragrant, lovely salad with fruit and a savory dressing. The salad has small pieces of cantaloupe and honeydew melon, as well as a blend of micro greens. The vinaigrette lends a cool mint influence with the zest of chili oil. It is an instant hit. It is also a well-suited dish for our hot August weather, cool and refreshing. It’s a sophisticated salad, where one ‘perfect bite’ can yield fruity, cool, zesty, and the firm, smooth, flesh of the halibut all together.
Another table favorite is again a duck dish, the Oven Roasted Half Duckling with wild rice and a cherry-port wine reduction. Once again, Chef Kendrick has demonstrated a deft touch in his use of fruit and wine with duck. The skin is perfectly cooked, and the duck meat is moist. The wild rice is fragrant, the vegetable medley of baby carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower has a wonderful texture, and we can not get enough of this plate. The quality of the ingredients clearly impacts each dish, which becomes abundantly clear with each successive bite.
The Rack of Lamb with potato-fennel galette and brandy-peppercorn sauce is placed in front of my companion and his face lights up as he picks up a rib and bites into the medium rare lamb. Served on the potatoes, it is cooked as lamb should be, and has picked up the fennel from the potato galette. This is, however, a dish for those that love lamb and fennel both. The lamb and the potato galette are both assertive dishes, and not necessarily for everyone. It is also served with a medley of steamed vegetables.
The final entrée we enjoy is the Sauteed Sea Scallops with sautéed spinach, potato puree and orange glaze. This dish sounds so simple, but its flavor is truly profound. The six large sea scallops are buttery and cooked beautifully, and the orange glaze with fresh orange sections really adds a fresh brightness to the entire dish. We try the scallops with and without the fresh orange on top, and they taste very different each way. The spinach is sautéed nicely and quickly, maintaining its fresh taste and brilliant color.
Somehow, Rich’s subtle presence urges us into the dessert menu. The dessert menu features some classic items, such as Crème Brulee with fresh berries, which is delectable. A couple taps with a spoon breaks the torched sugar on top, and the berries marry with the brulee to create a perfect summer dessert. However, the menu also has some unique offerings, such as the Cherry Brownie a la Mode, which is an unusual treat as well, featuring cherries dried with sugar. Accompanying our desserts, we finish off our meal with a chocolate “port.” Rosenblum Cellars Desiree Chocolate Dessert Wine is not to be missed. It’s rich, it’s sweet, it’s wine, it’s chocolate, it’s a naughty treat, and so very worth it.
When our dinner is finished, Chef Kendrick comes out of the kitchen to introduce himself to us. It is a pleasure meeting him. We learn of his attention to detail and uncompromising choices of ingredients. He uses only the freshest ingredients, and is very consistent, rather than merely offering “what’s available.” For example, all duck dishes are only prepared using white Peking ducks. The introduction, following our dinner, serves to attest to the care that goes into every dish that leaves the kitchen at Table 34.
Table 34’s wine list features 30 wines available by the glass and 73 available by the bottle. It’s not a pretentious place, though it is a fine dining restaurant – just ask for help, and one of their competent staff members will help you find something just right for you. Good food and great wines are found not only on the strip – come to this jewel in the desert. You will be glad you tried something different.