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La Table O&CO
Restaurant/Retail Hybrid Delivers on Quality
by Heather Thompson on Dec 16, 2004
La Table O & CO, which opened in late October of 2003, is the brainchild of Olivier Baussan of O&CO, a distributor of top-quality olive oils, and Pascal Rigo, arguably the city's most famous up-and-coming restaurateur (think Chez Nous, La Petit Robert, and the buzz-worthy Cortez).
The restaurant itself is less of a restaurant and more of a Meditteranean-themed bistro/retail store. The front portion of the restaurant makes up the seating area, while the back portion of the restaurant houses a small bakery, where homemade croissants, tarts, and other delicious things are sold. The middle section of the restaurant makes up the retail area, with floor-to-ceiling shelves lining the walls, display tables set up all about, and best of all, a tasting area where one can sample many of the products on display.
The O&CO label currently sells 21 different olive oils, most from regions in France, Italy, and Greece. They also sell everything from tapenades to tomato-based pasta sauces to flavored vinegars, all incredibly delicious and all of extremely high quality. I can say this with confidence because I sampled a myriad of the different products, and when I walked out of the restaurant, my taste buds were literally singing. Some of the products I sampled came straight out of the bottle or jar, but many that I tasted were incorporated into the dishes found on the small, yet charming menu.
The focus of the menu is the prix-fixe dinner, and said dinner is offered at a ridiculously reasonable price. It's the standard one appetizer, one entrée, one dessert type set-up, but at $16 per person, it may well be the best prix-fixe deal in town.
As I invited only one dinner guest, we chose to order the menu items a la carte so we could get a true sampling of the menu. If you choose to order in this manner, appetizers will usually run you about $5 per item, entrees range in cost from anywhere between $9 and $12, and desserts are typically $4 each.
Our meal began with a hunk of warm red pepper and olive focaccia bread, which went perfectly with the basil olive oil that is available on each table. Next came the soup du jour, a velvety blend of potatoes and leeks, served cold and drizzled with olive oil and a dollop of tapenade. Ahi tuna tartare, a standard SF menu item, was made notable here by the addition of fresh dill and harissa, a fiery Middle-Eastern style hot sauce made with chiles, garlic and olive oil. But the real stand-out amongst the appetizers was the rabbit rillette, served with a red onion jam and crusty bread, and prepared just the way we liked it, in the rustic old-world style where the meat is raked into small shreds as opposed to being pounded into a paste.
The homemade pasta of the day, a gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and hazelnuts, looked good on paper but did not deliver on the palate. The sauce was thin and decidedly non-gorgonzola like in flavor, and it had set on the dumplings in such a way that it tasted like it had been under a heat lamp. The baked local halibut was a much better choice, with a crispy tomato crust and an anchoiade sauce composed of anchovies, garlic, and (you guessed it) olive oil. Another winner was the grilled flat-iron steak, served in its own juices atop a gooey mound of parmesan potato gratin.
The warm chocolate cake, with grapefruit and marmalade accents, was satisfying and rich, but the Meyer lemon crème brulee was a bit soupier than we would have liked due to the citrus-flavored olive oil that had been added.
The wine list is short, yet well thought out, and each offering is available by either the glass or the bottle. Each pairs nicely with at least one of the food items on the accompanying menu. Beer is also available.
Note: the dinner menu changes every 2 -3 weeks, but the wine list changes much less frequently.
In all, what could have been an establishment that focused on tacky salesmanship and sub-par food is actually a delightfully warm and cozy hybrid of food meets retail. Check it out for yourself, because I guarantee it is unlike any establishment in which you have ever had the pleasure of dining.
by Heather Thompson on Dec 16, 2004