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Fresh ideas being served at Table 8

September 25, 2003|S. Irene Virbila | Times Staff Writer

Only in L.A. could you find a cool and sophisticated restaurant beneath a body-piercing parlor on a scruffy stretch of Melrose Avenue. A few blocks east of Fairfax, Table 8 takes over the space once inhabited by the budget French bistro Bouchon. The changes are so profound, though, in both looks and sensibility, it's hard to find the footprint of the old bistro in Table 8's polished good looks.

As we walk into the restaurant, a threesome is rapt in conversation in a small dining room. They're still there when we leave a couple of hours later. Maybe it's because the restaurant is actually quiet enough for conversation. It's not -- yet -- any kind of a scene. But hold on, that's because word isn't out.

Chef and co-owner Govind Armstrong was most recently chef -- with Ben Ford -- at Chadwick in Beverly Hills, but he's cooked all over town for years, so it will be interesting to see what he'll do on his own.

His opening menu at Table 8 couldn't be smarter. It's small. It's seasonal. And it includes a savvy lounge menu served, starting on Sunday, in the lounge, at the bar, and after 10:30 p.m.

For starters, he has a delicious calico corn soup. Who can resist the idea of calico corn? This one is very creamy, like silk on the tongue, with a delicate corn flavor ratcheted up with a smoky bacon vinaigrette.

Grilled sweetbreads are a beautiful foil for baby leeks and roasted mushrooms. Soft-shell crab has the lightest dusting of cornmeal. Black-eyed peas give the succotash served with it an earthiness that plays well against the sweet crab meat. His ravioli, a special this night, are twists of pasta filled with ricotta and greens in an heirloom tomato sauce with a deep resonant flavor.

The main courses each have an intriguing twist. Wood-roasted baby chicken, for example, is served on a satisfying short-rib hash. Flatiron steak -- the cut of the moment -- is rare and juicy, served with a buttery potato puree and pea tendrils. Liberty Farms duck breast comes with a sweet-tart roasted apple and braised endive for an early taste of fall.

Table 8 also offers an intelligent cheese course. Choose either three or five tastes from a selection of half a dozen artisanal cheeses. The short lounge menu includes a grilled cheese sandwich with pulled short rib, brandade fritters and grilled flatbread with white bean hummus and marinated olives.

But the one item I'm zeroing in on next time I go is the asparagus and morel omelet. See what I mean? Here's a chef who has some ideas.


Table 8

Where: 7661 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles

When: Dinner from 6 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Full bar. Valet parking.

Cost: Appetizers, $7 to $15; main dishes, $16 to $27; desserts, $7

Info: (323) 782-8258

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