We recently made a Thursday night reservation at Table 28, the upscale, yet unpretentious Little Rock restaurant that’s located in the basement of The Burgundy Hotel. It had been a full year since my last visit, thanks in large part to a global pandemic and me forgoing all dining-in, so I was excited to finally see what Chef Scott Rains and his crew had in store.
I will cut right to the chase. Everything — from the spot-on service to well-executed dishes — was exactly what we’ve come to expect from one of the very best restaurants in town.
Our meal started with an order of the Smoked Fish Dip, a gorgeous appetizer of smoked trout with a pop of color from the orange fish roe pearls. While a little thinner in consistency than expected, the dip was delicious, and the crisp Everything cracker proved to be the perfect vehicle for transporting it from the plate to my mouth.
A sip of my wife’s Roasted Pineapple Old Fashioned left me wanting to order one for myself, but I was honestly a little more focused on the second appetizer, an artistic take on the Caprese. A sizeable, local tomato came sliced, then stacked, so it gave the impression that a whole tomato resided on the plate. A ball of fresh mozzarella, along with a heavy pour of olive oil and balsamic vinegar with molasses and a garnish of fresh basil completed the Caprese.
For entrees, my Blacked Red Fish with fried Brussels sprouts was both tasty and beautiful — a running food theme throughout the evening. Heck, even the actual plates Table 28 uses are pretty. As for the red fish, expect a mild, slightly flakey protein that provides the ideal canvas for the Cajun spices. The deep-fried, shaved Brussels eat like chips, and I’ll never understand how there’s not even a hint of greasiness after their deep frying. A pat of smoked chili butter gives the fish an adequate amount of fat, and the sweet chow chow adds a bit of moisture. My wife also gave the thumbs up for her meatloaf. Although it does seem like a somewhat mundane dish to order from an upscale menu, the meatloaf is her go-to Table 28 order and it never disappoints.
We caught the tail end of the restaurant’s Spring Menu, and, by now, I am sure they are deep into the summer offerings. Chef Rains, who enjoys working his way around the dining room and touching tables throughout the dinner service, hinted at some subtle changes to the upcoming menu. Truth be told, this is the time of year when he truly excels, relying on a strong relationship with several growers in the area. The combination of their ingredients and his immense talent and creativity is what helps make Table 28 so popular with the masses.
Even at 9 p.m. on a Thursday night, a fairly late hour for Little Rock, the restaurant was hopping. It was nice to see, and more proof that Table 28 still has it.