Central Table Food Hall is one of the latest additions to the CWE dining scene. The massive 10,000-square-foot space opened this spring at the corner of Euclid Avenue and Forest Park Parkway, and features seven separate food and drink stations, from sushi to burgers and beyond, and a small market area with a selection of grab-and-go items. During the day, diners can head to one (or more) of the stations and order lunch, but in the evening, the eatery transforms into a more traditional restaurant, with seated dining and a fuller menu.
The space itself is impressive: A huge bar area takes up the middle of the room, and the various food stations are spread around the inside walls. The ceilings are soaring and this wealth of head room—combined with the minimalist industrial appointments like the finished concrete floor and the exposed metal rafters—give the spot an airy, wide-open feel.
One side of the dinner menu lists an array of sushi and maki, along with a selection of shellfish and oysters from the raw bar that changes daily. The other side is taken up with an impressive selection of small plates, salume and cheeses, and pizza options. There are also a handful of more traditional large plates like skirt steak, roasted chicken and scallops.
From the specialty maki selection, we had to try the Forest Park ($11), a custom roll consisting of tuna, hamachi, snow crab and cucumber dressed with some wasabi. The rice in the roll was spot-on, tender and just sticky enough to stay together without being pasty. We also got a couple of pieces of Sea Urchin ($13) to round things out.
The small plate offerings were grouped into hot and cold varieties, with flavors from Italian to Spanish to Asian. We chose the Sunflower Seed Pate ($11) from the cold side and the Pea Dumplings ($9) from the hot. The pate came spread on an oblong plate with small wedges of sweet radish, and olive soil (basically dollops of dehydrated olives) and sprouts, along with some edible flower petals. The dish was more akin to hummus than pate as far as consistency, but the sunflower made for a more earthy and complex flavor than chickpeas would have. All of the flavors on the plate were subtle and worked together nicely. The dumplings, which came in a delectable sour broth with carrots and pearl onions, were cooked to perfection.
The Strawberry Soup ($9) might be our new favorite summer dessert. Served cold, it was refreshing; and the presentation, which included tiny meringues and edible flowers floating in the rich red soup and a couple of tufts of cotton candy, was both beautiful and playful. In fact, careful attention was paid to plating and presentation across the board--all of our dishes came to the table dressed to the nines. Central Table has been described by some as an upscale food court of sorts, but this definition gives it short shrift, because the end result is far superior to anything you've experienced at the local mall.
Central Table Food Hall, 23 South Euclid Ave., centraltablestl.com, 932-5595
Central Table Food Hall's Pea Dumplings
Ingredients: Dumpling Filling
1 C Chinese pea leaves, chiffonade
1/2 C basil, chiffonade
1 C snap peas, sliced thin
1 T preserved lemon rind, minced
1/2 C English peas
2 T Mascarpone
Ingredients: Prosciutto Broth
4 C Prosciutto, medium dice
1 head garlic, split in half
2 stalks celery, largely diced
1 large Carrot, largely diced
1 T Spanish paprika
1 package white pearl onions, peeled and blanched to tender
1 large carrot, peeled, cut in 1/8 in rounds and blanched to tender
1 package Chinese wonton wrappers, round
- Bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil and season heavily with salt.
- Add peas and cook until very tender. Transfer peas to a blender and puree until smooth. Add a little water if necessary.
- Cool pea puree quickly, stirring in a metal container over ice.
- Mix all ingredients well and season with salt to taste.
- Allow to sit in refrigerator for at least one hour.
- Add prosciutto to a cool four quart sauce pot and render fat over medium low heat for five minutes.
- Add vegetables, increase heat to medium, and cook until lightly browned.
- Add paprika and stir constantly until fragrant—about 45 seconds.
- Add two quarts water.
- Allow to simmer slowly for two hours. Strain through coffee filter and add fresh lemon juice to taste.
- Place 1/2 T filling in center of wrapper.
- With your finger, lightly moisten the edges of wrapper with cool water.
- Fold over and seal. Making small folds around the edges, crimp together to form a seal.
- Place dumplings on lightly oiled parchment sheet in steamer.
- Steam until wrapper is tender; timing will depend on chosen wrappers, approximately four to eight minutes.
- Warm broth. Heat blanched carrots and onions in steamer for one minute.
- Pour broth into bowls and add dumplings, carrots and onions. Garnish with pea tendrils.