Red Table is located at
16821 Algonquin in Huntington Beach.
714.846.4700 :: redtablerestaurants.com
There is no shortage of restaurants in Orange County that have embraced the concept of dining in a casual, communal atmosphere – one where food is placed on a pedestal, beverages are an integral rather than peripheral part of the meal, and people and good company take center stage. It’s a formulaic trio that is enticing in its simplicity and attractive in its mission – and one of which we can’t get enough.
So when we heard about Red Table, a Huntington Beach restaurant whose focus was in line with these tenets of modern dining, it was inevitable that we would end up there some time in the near future to assess its success in achieving the magical trio. Despite its unexpected location in a shopping center in northern Huntington Beach, we felt the communal vibe right away – a bright, airy space awash in natural light, an open kitchen and large communal tables begging to be occupied by conversationalists from all walks. And with décor that speaks more to an eclectic post-travels collection of assorted objects rather than a too-carefully orchestrated exercise in interior decoration, the restaurant has the immediate whiff of unfussy dining that appeals to large swaths of discerning diners.
Given Red Table’s story, it’s no surprise that the restaurant has turned out the way it has. The team behind the project describe themselves accordingly: “Who are we, you might ask? We are an exquisite chef, a hospitality wizard, a savvy businesswoman, and a passionate team of superstars…” Perhaps unintentionally evoking a Breakfast Club-esque feel of a diverse group of incongruous parts that somehow come together to make a greater whole, the effect is one of cohesiveness and friendship, and of adventure and risk – ingredients that we hoped would come together to make for a similarly inspiring dining experience.
In the vein of the communal dining philosophy, no-bones Buffalo chicken arrived in abundance, accompanied by blue cheese dressing and the requisite carrot, celery and jicama slices. Flavorful and freshly made, the chicken was tender and the spice at a pleasant heat level. The coating, however, lacked crunch and tended towards sponginess, leaving texture to be desired.
Albacore ceviche-shimi was expectedly refreshing and bold, topped with aromatic citrus vinaigrette and herb oil – much recommended for summer dining. Grilled pork belly with soy vinegar, pickled onions and herbs exhibited the same admirable boldness of flavor, but this time it was enhanced with smokiness from the grill and beautifully textured meat that fell apart at the touch of a fork. Heaven on a plate.
Flatbreads also make an appearance on Red Table’s extensive menu, with The Crush – consisting of crushed tomatoes, basil and fresh cheese – representing the most simple among them. A good testing ground for overall quality, we found the crust to be suitably cracker-like and the tomatoes and cheese rendering the whole to be somewhere in the average range – neither memorable nor totally forgettable.
From the larger plate menu, the dishes begin to sound more interesting, with a greater amount of components on the plate and a variety of accouterments to accent the main element. Pork and beans, replete with slow-cooked pork, pork belly, cannellini beans, and pickled onion was comfort food met with a touch of sophistication, and perfectly al dente beans made for an upscale dish from a childhood favorite. Flat iron steak with smoked paprika, chimichurri and barbecue drizzle, served with olive oil crushed potatoes, was full of herbal essences wafting up from a thin piece of flavorful meat. Although it could have done without the drizzle of barbecue sauce, which was a distraction from the other lovely, earthy flavors, it was a successful dish, expertly composed and executed. Likewise, braised beef short ribs, which were boneless and served with root vegetables, crushed potatoes and pan demi glace, tended towards the comfort food spectrum, but unlike the previous dish, seemed out of place during the warmer summer months.
This was not the case for dessert – a broken banana cream pie made with vanilla custard, caramelized bananas and caramel sauce. Evoking the long days of summer and the hunger brought forth after spending a day at the beach, we devoured this pie accordingly, ceremoniously fighting over sweet globs of custard mixed with crunchy sugar bits from the caramelized bananas. A crunchy crust reminiscent of a mix between shortbread and pie crust acted as the backdrop. It was our Breakfast Club moment – one we will likely share again in this eclectic, incongruous restaurant.