Never underestimate the power of word of mouth. I rely on it heavily when choosing where to eat. If, for instance, a chef tells me he despises some new place, I'm there in a heartbeat.
The latest place to hate seems to be The Table, a tiny two-dozen-seat bistro just opened at Fourth Street and Roosevelt. The place oozes charm, with a mini menu (usually just a couple of starters, three entrees and a dessert) and a BYOB policy. Food is "farm-fresh," with an Italian accent, like salmon with fava beans over fettuccine in cream sauce.
There's nothing too novel to eat -- mussels appetizer, New York strip steak -- but I've got to go just to see what has our chefs' toques in a knot. The other week, one of our more vocal local chefs chimed in with his opinion and this warning: "The first time you call it the new best thing, this place will piss off absolutely everyone." He tells me he thinks that the place is too small, too "green" and has "no clue," but at least has "good intentions."
Another chef is disgusted with me even before I've opened my mouth, sending me an e-mail saying, "Unfortunately, I think you will like it. I know you reviewers will fall in love with this cutesy, urban-trendy-rebuild-downtown-art-district-friendly-very-mediocre-cuisine."
Her gentle, vague concerns are that Table chefs Vine Saccento and Peter Deyo "don't get it," and are "so off the map" in their concept for the "nasty neighborhood." Perhaps she has a point, though I'm not so sure about her musings that the chefs might also be "ex-ax murderers."
She ends with an ominous suggestion: "Well, you go and decide, but if you love it, well . . ."
Well. Now I have to go.
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Edible Art: Finally, a class operation has rescued the cafe at the Phoenix Art Museum, fixing what's always been a terrific hideaway space for a quiet meal but a lousy place for food. Arcadia Farms is now in charge of breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch for the gallery at Central and McDowell.
Arcadia Farms was an overnight hit when it first opened at First Avenue and Goldwater in Scottsdale back in 1990. Since then, it has expanded to include a private party facility next door, and the restaurant now runs the Desert Botanical Garden's patio cafe.
The Art Museum restaurant offers Arcadia Farms' signature farm-fresh American food, with big salads fashioned from organic produce and enormous sandwiches stuffed with things like Young's Farm poultry. The wine list includes California and Italian selections, and on Sundays, there's live jazz piano.