Photographs by Jeremy Kramer
The French are known arbiters of nonchalance (not to mention coy shrugs), their enviable ease and seemingly effortless stylishness rooted in a tireless appreciation and pursuit of beauty. It’s altogether charming, and Jean-Robert’s Table is a prime example: Only a devout disciple of Gallic living could smartly transform a downtown hole-in-the-wall (Remember Buddakhan? Didn’t think so.) next door to a bodega into a chic haven of contemporary French cuisine. To tuck in at Table is to be welcomed into the inner sanctum of Chef Jean-Robert de Cavel’s milieu; it’s intimate, comfortable, and well designed without feeling hyper-curated. Dishes are flawlessly executed by a staff of young cooks eager to please their mentor, while the service is quietly impeccable—attentive one moment, invisible the next. A ravioli appetizer stuffed with parsnip, goat cheese, and portabella mushrooms and topped with a red-wine poached egg and truffle cream sauce was so perfectly decadent and lush we had to restrain ourselves from licking the dish clean. The creative whimsy in de Cavel’s menu knows no bounds. Take the duo of rabbit with hazelnut, dried cherries, broccoli, cauliflower, and a pair of mustards, or the “Three Little Cochon”—pork belly, ribs, and tenderloin—served with potatoes, garlic confit, braised cabbage, mushrooms, and a bourbon sauce. His sea scallops, lightly seared and perched atop a bed of shiitake risotto, shrimp, grapes, and butternut squash with an anise beurre blanc, reveals a deep knowledge (and enduring love) of French culinary tradition, as well as a knack for keeping things contemporary. And there’s his signature playfulness: On a Bengals game day, he offered a black and orange (think black quinoa, orange segments, and honey mustard) lobster salad. Ever-inventive, he’s making one for the Reds, too. The table’s set; come take your seat.
713 Vine St., downtown, (513) 621-4777, jrtable.com