After three years as Sfuzzi, the location at 525 Meadow Creek Drive in Irving has changed its spots once again. Rising in its place like a somewhat battered phoenix is a concept called Table and Tavern.
The location, which has seen many restaurants come and go, suffers one itsy-bitsy challenge: Its slightly inaccessible if youre approaching it from Dallas. You must pass it on the freeway, get off at the next exit and then loop back. It seems minor, but diners have shown that theyre willing to suffer precious few obstacles in their procurement of grub. Any restaurant without a parking space at the entrance is tempting the fates.
Sfuzzi, whose history dates back to the 90s, had name recognition going for it. But Sfuzzis operators a team that includes managers Tyler Brown and Brad Hawkins determined that pizza and pasta werent enough, and Table and Tavern was born.
Aside from having the au courant and in its name, the new concept places a greater emphasis on the bar. Las Colinas has relatively few restaurants and almost no bars.
Theyve created a small menu for the bar the Tavern side thats separate from the dining room or Table side. The Table menu retains many of Sfuzzis items, but with tweaks and edits that downplay the Italian accents in favor of a more all-American persona.
Sometimes its cosmetic. For example, where the starters used to include Italian bread with fonduta, there is now pretzel bread ($9) with cheese sauce. No more risotto; instead, theres a burger ($12) with bacon and cheddar cheese, and a Tavern dog ($12) with bacon, mustard and cucumber slaw.
Sadly there are fewer pizzas: four instead of eight. Pizza was something Sfuzzi did well. The remaining four pies include pepperoni, prosciutto and pineapple, a Margherita and the best of the four, an egg-and-bacon pizza ($16) with thick chunks of bacon, caramelized onions and fried egg.
In general, the menu does classic items such as calamari and roast chicken with a subtle gourmet twist. A pork chop ($25) is accompanied by charro beans and pumpkin-seed Romesco sauce. The bone-in cowboy rib-eye ($42) comes with a clever bacon potato salad. Mashed potatoes have garlic; a steak salad ($14) includes arugula and blue cheese. These are not things you see on every menu.
Overseen by chef Hector Hernandez, the kitchen executed most items fairly well. Scallops ($26) were seared to a hoped-for tenderness with a crisp browned crust, although some parts were noticeably over-salted. They came with fregola sarda tiny pasta bits that looked like pearl couscous in an orange-red salsa rossa, laced with shredded pork. The overall effect was like a spicy, nubby risotto.
A starter of portabello and asparagus fries ($10) seemed like a misnomer. They were really just fried tempura-style, so why not call them that? They were very good: long asparagus stalks and thick slices of the mushroom in a crunchy, highly-seasoned crust. The thick dusting of Parmesan cheese only served as a distraction.
On the kale salad ($9), the kitchen strayed too far into gourmet turf. The ingredient mix sounded good, with chickpeas, feta cheese, julienned apple and candied pistachio. But the kale was not handled skillfully. Kale is so stiff that it benefits from a massage with salt to break down the stiffness of the leaves. These were simply chopped and tossed, making for a difficult chew.
The new dishes on the bar menu were a little over-the-top, as much for entertainment as they were for eating. Fried chicken skin ($6) consisted of strips of chicken skin, battered and fried in a shaggy crust and served with hot sauce and honey. Crackly and hot, the strips were an OK foil for a beer, but bet you can just eat one.
Pork wings ($12) were more like ribs, with part of the bone shaved clean to make them easy to grip. Even with a coating of spicy-hot barbecue sauce, the pork was dry. The ribs came three to an order, with a nice sprinkling of peanuts and a mix of pickled vegetables that was blistering hot.
If you want something beyond a conversation starter, youre better off ordering from the Table menu, which you can do regardless of where you sit: in the dark dining room, at the rowdy bar or on the spacious patio in front.
Cocktails such as the T&T Cooler ($9) with gin and lavender syrup are buttressed by a respectable selection of craft beers, including local Peticolas and Lakewood Brewing on tap. Casting itself as a bar with food is the strategy of the moment for Table and Tavern. It cant hurt.