We love taking newbies to Korean restaurants. It's so fun to casually mention that Korean cuisine contains pickles. Then to watch our guests' eyes bug out when, like at Tabletop, some 13 little plates arrive, each bearing a different type of vegetable, marinated and spiced to varying heat levels (ranging from mild puckery to call the fire department).
At Tabletop, the pickles, and everything else, stand out because they're so incredibly fresh. Everything sparkles with obvious pride from the kitchen. These are authentic dishes, too, not toned down for wussy American taste buds. That pan-fried shrimp in spicy chili sauce requires great gulps of Asian beer to soothe the burns. Cornish hen is not your typical poultry on a plate, but a hearty soup of whole bird swimming with medicinal herbs, spices and real, potent Korean ginseng. The waiter cuts up the carcass with scissors, and we roll pieces of flesh in salt-pepper mix or coarse rock salt. There's tabletop cooking, too, of course, working with a grill set in the table's center. We like the beef short ribs, wrapping the tender beef in crisp romaine leaves and wrapping it with thick chile paste and jalapeños.
It's impossible to leave hungry, or without change in our pockets. While Tabletop specialties run from $12.95 to $15.95, portions are for two. Now that's pretty tasty.