Pacific Table, the chic new restaurant from chef Felipe Armenta, proves that the seafood trend is no fluke. Oysters on the half shell, sushi rolls and salmon with sticky rice are just a few of the culinary thrills at this hot spot not far from TCU. Droves of diners — families, couples and the random well-heeled student or two — are digging into fish as if they all grew up on the coast. With no reservations for parties under six, the wait exceeds an hour during peak times.
But the excitement surrounding Pacific Table also reflects the chops and versatility of Armenta. While his other Fort Worth restaurant, The Tavern, is none too shabby, it has a populist demeanor, with enchiladas and brisket tacos that makes the refinement at Pacific Table that much more of an unexpected revelation.
The elevated tone at Pacific Table is first established by atmosphere and decor. The former La Piazza space is filled with natural light and wood, including dark, wide-planked wood floors, cedar planks on the wall, butcher-block tables and distinctive wood-block cut-outs that become their own art project. With a semi-open kitchen, sleek white-vinyl banquettes and a terrazzo-style bar, the room feels warm and modern.
Given all that elegance, the relatively reasonable prices — ranging from $14 for porcini-roasted chicken to $28 for a filet mignon — seem like a steal. Two can eat quite well and enjoy a cocktail with their meal for $60. The menu remains concise, but packs in many options, including sandwiches and entree salads.
The menu has a California spirit in the way it inclusively combines multiple cuisines. There’s an oyster po-boy ($12), “satay” steak salad ($16) and Korean-style short ribs ($23) with pineapple-ginger glaze. Plate presentation echoes the atmosphere: hearty yet clean.
Miso salmon ($19) was divine enough to make you forget any other salmon, no small feat since salmon is so common these days. Farm-raised and glossy with its miso glaze, it was a thick brick, cooked beautifully, with firm edges and a soft, red rare center. It was accompanied by sticky white rice, chewy and slightly sweet; in some spots, it absorbed the extra glaze, forcing you to scrape up every grain. A side of broccolini, that high-class version of broccoli, was bright green and cooked until just-tender; in a novel stroke, it came topped with chopped peanuts.
Scallop salad ($16) was a lighter entree, oh-so pretty and prime fodder for the lunch crowd. This was basically a salad with five pan-seared scallops, browned on the edges. What made it memorable were the unusual ingredients, which added depth and texture. It included wild greens, plus chunks of soft avocado, crunchy sticks of jicama and apple, and jumbo golden raisins. This would go over big with the gluten-free crowd; it offered so much sweet and savory, and so much to chew. There’s a steak version as well.
A yellowtail jalapeño roll ($7), with tuna, jicama and avocado, was not a bad entry, even if the seaweed wrapper felt a bit gummy. Fried oysters ($10), six specimens cloaked in a crunchy crust and served on their shell, were a better bet. And sides ($5) such as quinoa salad and kale were wonderful, especially the Brussels sprouts, lined up on a wooden skewer and grilled.
The showpiece dessert was Henry’s ice cream sundae ($8) with chocolate-covered coffee-bean and vanilla ice cream, a fudgy topping made from melted Callebaut chocolate, and a sprinkling of chopped Marcona almonds that added a nice hit of salt to the sweet. Intriguing little details, nicely conceived — that’s what it’s all about.