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Revisit (and a plea): Table 1280

Halibut with pea shoots and cauliflower

Halibut with pea shoots and cauliflower

Chef Tracey Bloom did not last long on the current season of “Top Chef.” Asked to leave after the third episode, Bloom later told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the stress got to her. The lack of sleep, rigorous filming schedule, and being away from both her partner and her partner’s young daughter took their toll.

But Bloom’s quick turn on reality television did bring attention to Table 1280 — the important Atlanta restaurant where she is chef.

Built as part of the High Museum of Art expansion in 2005, the restaurant opened as a beautiful and promising addition to the Midtown dining scene. It juts into the open “piazza” that architect Renzo Piano formed from his addition, the original Richard Meier High building and the Woodruff Arts Center. At the time of its opening, Piano talked at length about how a piazza — or public square — would benefit the fabric of urban Atlanta. It would be an aesthetically pleasing environment for commuters to cut through en route to the Arts Center MARTA station, but it could also be a place to stop for a coffee or glass of wine. Enter Table 1280.

Mixed green salad

Mixed green salad

Yet this restaurant never did feel like it became an integral part of Atlanta’s streetscape the way Tap, the pub just down the street, has. Maybe it was the stark and chilly environment. Maybe the high prices. Maybe the horrors of the High’s parking garage. But Atlantans tend to visit 1280 when they’re already at the arts center;  it’s not a draw.

I stopped by last Wednesday to sample Bloom’s cooking, unaware that it would be her last night on “Top Chef.” I thought the food was, frankly, not a lot different that it had been under the two previous chefs at Table 1280. Tasty. A bit uneven. Expensive.

We really enjoyed a smooth-as-silk corn soup topped with a swirl of crème fraîche as well as a fluffy green salad showered with marcona almonds, crumbled feta cheese and slivers of yellow beet.

Seared wild salmon with pickled cucumber and crispy quinoa

Seared wild salmon with pickled cucumber and crispy quinoa

But funny things were off. The tasty little pot de crème topped with blueberry compote was vanilla, not the advertised lemon. A gorgeously cooked fillet of wild salmon — its skin as crisp and tasty as a potato chip, its flesh bursting with juice under a hot sear — came with a whole lot of pickled cucumbers. I mean like a Vlasic jar full. The specks of crispy quinoa on the plate were fun, but the only way to actually eat them was by licking your fingertip to make them stick.

A chunk of halibut was just plain odd — cut thin, gooey-rare in the center, pungent and unlike any halibut I had ever encountered. The garnish of pea shoot, shaved raw cauliflower, salsa verde and a respectful hint of truffle oil deserved a better piece of fish.

As is always the case here, a pared-down staff doesn’t expect much business on off nights, and so service is professional but slow.

Corn soup

Corn soup

Here’s a plea. I want this restaurant to become more vibrant. I want the prices to come down. I want the fantastic-looking bar to serve cakes and coffee in the afternoon. I want an ice cream truck out front. I want the management to think about serving a high-end buffet occasionally, so people can walk through the gorgeous space instead of feeling stuck in a chilly corner. Or — Can I say it? — give over part of the space for a great cafeteria. This restaurant does not need to be going after the dwindling $24 salmon crowd.

There’s a good chef here. Let Tracey Bloom remake this restaurant.

56 comments Add your comment

Kendall

July 6th, 2010
1:38 pm

My husband and I lunched here a couple of weeks ago after a trip to the High. I agree with your assessment. I had a fabulous halibut sandwich, but it had so many competing condiments that it was overwhelming. I ended up stripping it down to the fish and it was perfect. We had wine with lunch, but even so, the bill was just at $150 for two with tip. That’s steep for lunch.

Jeffrey

July 6th, 2010
1:47 pm

I want this one to survive too, but something isn’t right. I went gaga over the poached egg and escargot but wish I could have had it on Sunday afternoon after a walk through the High, not in the stale dining room at night more than half empty. I haven’t been for a while because I am still not sure they do lunch. I wanted to go and feel like I was in Europe and can’t figure out why that can’t be delivered with the beautiful courtyard/patio and food.

Elizabeth

July 6th, 2010
1:47 pm

I agree with the assessment of Table 1280. My husband and I often go to the HIGH, and we have stopped by Table 1280 for tapas and a drink. However, when we realized that Table 1280 charged double what TAP charges for the same bottle of Prosecco, we stopped going.

CP

July 6th, 2010
1:49 pm

Prices are the reason I’ve never eaten here, even on a trip to the High. Nothing about the place convinces me that the food will be worth the price.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Savory Exposure, ajcdinecritic. ajcdinecritic said: Revisit (and a plea): Table 1280 http://bit.ly/b4bTZO (Food & More blog) [...]

Dan

July 6th, 2010
2:24 pm

Simply put good restaurants are not found in museums/theatres. The restaurant is merely a convenience for the primary draw, and what exceptional chef wants to play second fiddle in their own space? I fear Top Chef is going the way of many cooking shows and inviting lesser talents indeed a number undeserving of the title chef, much less top chef

CKM

July 6th, 2010
2:27 pm

I’ve been here twice for lunch. Way too pricey for a mediocre chicken salad sandwich. The dining room felt uncomfortable to me. Sort of loud chair scraping against wood floors. Went twice to give it a second try. Wasn’t impressed.

gator32301

July 6th, 2010
2:28 pm

went there with my wife several years ago on a Saturday night. i had no idea that it would be so empty without there being an event at the center. the food was good, not great, but it was absolutely bizarre to have the entire dining room to ourselves. haven’t been back since.

Honest consumer

July 6th, 2010
2:35 pm

There are many reasons that this place (and others like it) tend to struggle lately. John said it best early-on, along with the photos — the top one, for example… halibut with pea shoots and cauliflower? Ick.

John said “I thought the food was, frankly, not a lot different that it had been under the two previous chefs at Table 1280. Tasty. A bit uneven. Expensive.”

Well, Mr. Kessler, 95 percent of the places you bother to visit and write about fall into this category!!! too expensive, too highbrow, too exclusive, too narrow a menu, and too experimental. That leads diners to think the food is not quality and not consistent and overpriced. You are forgetting that many normal, average, middle-class-to-upper-middle-class folks don’t WANT $28 mango-glazed-salmon-with-egg-white-soup dinners. We’d like a decent cut of steak, flavored well, tender, with a variety of sides to choose from, for a decent price.

John also said: “We really enjoyed a smooth-as-silk corn soup topped with a swirl of crème fraîche as well as a fluffy green salad showered with marcona almonds, crumbled feta cheese and slivers of yellow beets.”

There again… almonds, feta cheese, beets? None of that, quite frankly, sounds appetizing. How about a nice, traditional Southern salad with lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, fresh tomatoes, homemade dressings, maybe some red peppers or squash? Why does every place thing it has to have a strange mixture in EVERY dish?

Atlanta restaurants are learning (slowly) and John seems to be finally grasping the concept: consumers right now don’t need fancy, overpriced, exclusive restaurants with narrow, pretentious menus. We want a good variety of quality dinners at a reasonable price, and with ingredients that we know and understand and grew up with.

John said it best at the end: “This restaurant does not need to be going after the dwindling $24 salmon crowd.” AMEN A THOUSAND TIMES OVER! Now, it’s your job as a food writer, to go FIND these places that are non-$24-salmon restaurants, and let people know what’s out there without being too critical or turning up your nose at the food because it’s not fancy. Let consumers know what’s out there as the ALTERNATIVE to $24-salmon restaurants, and THEN you will be truly doing a service to your readers.

Honest consumer

July 6th, 2010
2:37 pm

To Kendall at 1:38 p.m.: your comment says it all. $150 for lunch? Really? In this economy? Any place that has prices like this is obviously not in touch with today’s consumer. And very few of us are ever going to bother trying a place like this.

More variety. Simple attention to quality and service. And decent prices. That’s all many of us ask of a restaurant.

A

July 6th, 2010
2:40 pm

We go to the High/Symphony Hall for all new exhibits and the ASO kids concerts, and I have always felt intimidated by Table 1280. It just doesn’t look very welcoming or friendly (part of the stark and chilly atmosphere John mentioned above) and I’m not likely to try it. We have been to Shout down the street, which has wonderful sushi and a great atmosphere. Will try TAP next time but unfortunately not Table 1280 unless they lower prices and make themselves more open to people who just want to grab a quick bite without breaking the bank.

Just my opinion

July 6th, 2010
2:41 pm

You all can keep your $150 lunches of halibut sandwiches and salads with almonds and beets and feta cheese. I will pay a quarter of that price for a delicious cut of chicken or steak, flavored simply and grilled to perfection, with some normal sides that I can find in my garden. That’s a good meal to me…. not a three-digit lunch that leaves me hungry two hours later.

Emily

July 6th, 2010
3:06 pm

I know John’s cafeteria suggestion will make some shudder, but if one like the one at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London could be created at the Arts Center, I think it would satisfy a lot of tastes and be a real attraction.

RD

July 6th, 2010
3:10 pm

I agree with your comments. The place is cold, uninviting and quite pricey. I feel like I would have to be a benefactor of the museum in order to step inside. The reception at the front is quite is very chilly and it doesn’t get better. I like a gastropub concept or at least a European museum mix of good food at reasonable prices and an expanded patio for dining. If not, then 1280 won’t be a lost place.

janet

July 6th, 2010
3:42 pm

Table 1280 has never appealed to me but one night I wanted to just drop in for coffee and a dessert. I was turned away at the door.It seems they didn’t “do” coffee and dessert.
It seems food and beverage at the Woodruff Arts Center are over priced because of some sort of contract that the Center has with providers.
I agree a nice cafeteria with a casual ambience would be perfect.

Matthew

July 6th, 2010
4:07 pm

Too cold. too pricey. But I would gladly overcome that, if it weren’t for the $14 parking. That tends to keep me out of the Woodruff completely.

Chris

July 6th, 2010
4:41 pm

Everything about the High Museum is pricey. The parking, museum admission and table 1280 for sure. If you haven’t checked out the museum in Indianapolis y’all really should. The museum has an awesome collection and covers all periods not just crappy modern art. They have really great pieces from a wide selection of great artists. You know how much it is to park there? FREE!! Museum admission? FREE, the cafe? Alot cheaper than 1280. If Iived in Indy I’d be at the museu
Weekly at least. spending $35 at least to make a trip to the high is off putting for most.

Glenn

July 6th, 2010
4:43 pm

The food has pretty much been good for some time; however, the delivery and service have been going down hill for over six months. Before one ASO concert, we arrived 85 minutes before the concert. Promptly placed our order. It took 60 minutes to get our entree, which was brought to us packaged “to go.” Waiters ignored us as we “tried” to signal them that time was running out. Thanks goodness we had ordered one starter of soup, which we shared. The entree went to the dog after sitting in our car for two hours plus. Basically we paid $80 for a bowl of soup.

I totally agree with Kessler’s “wish list” for this restaurant. We have been talking about using South City Kitchen or Vickery’s this coming season if things don’t change.

Glenn

July 6th, 2010
4:46 pm

One more thought. If you just want to order starters and drinks before a concert and wish to sit in the Lounge/bar area…good luck. Immpossible to make contact with a server or to place orders from the bar. It is simply horrible service for a lounge.

BehindEnemyLines

July 6th, 2010
5:47 pm

I think “Honest consumer” just delivered the tastiest thing I’ve seen in a food column in years.
Well said, sir or madam, well said indeed.

John Kessler

July 6th, 2010
5:53 pm

The cafeteria at MoMA in New York is great, too. My family and I could all get exactly what we wanted — whether cake and coffee, a light sandwich or a bowl of soup.
Honest Consumer, your point is well taken, but I must tell you that 95% of the restaurants I write about are not this expensive. Yes, I wrote about Floataway Cafe (light meal and wine for four — $100) recently, but others before that were Yeah Burger, a roundup of Korean places in Gwinnett, Farmstead 303, China Cooks, etc. I think this blog covers lots and lots of affordable options.

Art

July 6th, 2010
6:55 pm

I’ve never eaten at Table 1280 but Tracey Bloom , or at least the Top Chef Tracey Bloom, did not make me want to eat her food. In short, she didn’t come across well… and more importantly, her food didn’t come across well… Which brings up an interesting dilemma… In the days of old, you rarely knew, unless it was a really well established fine dining restaurant, who the chef was and… you didn’t care. Now, in this day of celebrity this and celebrity that and finally… and for many well deserved… celebrity chefs, we’re now caring who’s running the kitchen or at least putting their name behind who’s running the kitchen. So image matters… Maybe for some even more than taste. It’s funny because almost everyone to a man or woman thinks fondly of our grandmothers and their magical culinary skills and yet we never cared a hoot about what they looked like. And finally, Honest Consumer, you just don’t join the party enough… JK writes about all sorts of locals eats… in fact I think he may actually be one of those homeless people with a shopping cart on Buford Hwy… to love food and restaurants and eating in general, you’ve got to be willing to discuss it all from the absurd to grandma’s kitchen. And lastly, I’m with you… there’s nothing like a great steak, grilled at home and at 1/2 the steakhouse price. This is one fun blog!

janet

July 6th, 2010
7:03 pm

I solved the problem of expensive parking at the Woodruff Arts Center by only using MARTA. It couldn’t get any closer or cheaper. And if you want that ‘big city’ experience then pretend you are in Paris or Madrid. You would visit their museums, galleries, concert halls using public transportation. Time to change the mindset about public transportation in Metro Atlanta.

Art

July 6th, 2010
7:22 pm

Janet, if Atlanta was ever broad minded enough to invest in the type of public transportation that Paris or Madrid or London or New York, even, was willing to pay for, I’d be all in… but as long as a guy like me has to play “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and throw in a donkey and a rowboat or two.. No thanks I’ll stick to my gas guzzling car. Mass transit in Atlanta is a joke and is solely there to provide marginally reliable transportation to those who can’t afford anything else and live in an impoverished area that doesn’t provide any jobs. Better put.. it’s welfare on wheels… not mass, that would be for everybody, transit… Enjoy the Ride!

[...] Revisit (and a plea): Table 1280 – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Table 1280 | rabidconservative.com

July 6th, 2010
7:58 pm

[...] Revisit (and a plea): Table 1280 Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) Asked to leave after the third episode, Bloom later told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the stress got to her. The lack of sleep, rigorous filming … http://blogs.ajc.com/food-and-more/2010/07/06/revisit-and-a-plea-table-1280/ [...]

chetbop

July 6th, 2010
9:14 pm

After reading all of these (deserved) comments, I just don’t have the heart to jump atop the pile-up. Maybe table1280 will take notice. I do, however want to emphasize one of JK’s remarks not yet amplified in the above comments:
STREET FOOD!
A food-vendor cart would work wonders for the atmosphere around Woodruff. City of Atlanta govt, please update existing statutes regulating streetfood vending.

Dee

July 6th, 2010
10:30 pm

I’m not trying to be insulting to those with unadventurous palates, but it’s so strange to me that someone who doesn’t like halibut, cauliflower, almonds, or feta cheese would feel compelled to join this conversation. Please let those of us who like to try interesting new foods and restaurants read about them without having to sift through the comments and digressions about YOU and what YOU like.

Fred

July 7th, 2010
3:23 am

Honest Consumer: please don’t tkae this the wrong way because I am not trying to be rude. But what I want to say is blunt and there IS no PC way to say it. Here goes:

The places you are talking about don’t NEED a review. You said:

“You are forgetting that many normal, average, middle-class-to-upper-middle-class folks don’t WANT $28 mango-glazed-salmon-with-egg-white-soup dinners. We’d like a decent cut of steak, flavored well, tender, with a variety of sides to choose from, for a decent price.”

Can you say LONGHORNS? Are Outback or ………… crap, there are 10 more chains and God only knows how many other places that aren’t chains where you can get that. They doesn’t need a review. We all know about them. We all eat at them. I started to say 9 out of 10 times when I go out for a steak, it’s at Longhorn’s, but that’s not right. It’s more like 99 times out of 100. Yeah, Ruth’s Chris is good. Kevin Rathburn’s is good. But……….. most times, I just want a regular steak. I don’t want to spend 6 million dollars. Sometimes though, I DO want the 50 buck steak. There is a taste difference. When I DO want a 50 buck steak, I don’t want to go someplace that is serving a 20 buck steak and charging 50 bucks for it. Folks like JK scout it out for me. I appreciate it.

But he doesn’t just do the pricey places. He writes all the time about cheap places. Just last week he mentioned a taco stand kind of place that is in the Farmers Market in Forrest Park. H ewrote about a place to get a crawfish poboy off Buford Highway (can’t remeber the name but I know how to get there lol). He hits neighbor hood places.

It’s a pretty well balanced food blog I think.

Fred

July 7th, 2010
3:24 am

Wow, lots of typos up there. Sorry.

Fred

July 7th, 2010
3:29 am

Damn. And I didn’t say what I was going to say when I first read the article:

Interesting review John. It almost sounded like you were knocking the chef until I got to the bottom of the article. I think you nailed it. Put the “concept people” and the bean counters in the back seat and let the chef drive.

Reds

July 7th, 2010
8:31 am

*Cheer* Fred. I don’t need JK to review Texas Roadhouse for me. And that salad, (without the beets) sounds like something I would serve… and probably on arugula! I love the random Ethinic cuisine spots JK gives us as well.

WAC Fan

July 7th, 2010
9:11 am

i really want 1280 to succeed, but everytime we go there the costs are just too much and the service is not existant. So we go elsewhere. Tracy wont get a chance to make it work…the over head costs are too high.

I have many friends who work on campus and Restaurant Associates- which runs it all- is very expensive- even for inhouse events. the sandwiches they serve at the cart at the High and the WAC lobby are tasty, but expesive…I will say the pastry chef does rock out some yummy croissants! But my friends who work there cant even afford to eat off of the carts everyday! its cheaper to walk to the food court at Colony Square!

John Kessler

July 7th, 2010
11:28 am

Fred — I’ll take your typos. Thanks, man.

careful diner

July 7th, 2010
11:48 am

The only time I have seen the High was in the movie “Manhunter”. We simply cannot afford places like this. Can the AJC please get someone to review “normal” places to eat? My household income is $100k+, and we cannot afford to eat where the wonderful Mr. Kessler eats.

janet

July 7th, 2010
12:35 pm

If you want a big city public transit system then lobby your state lawmakers to loosen the grip on MARTA’s funding. And while you are at it, take away their taxpayer funded vehicles and gas cards. But until that happens, I will continue to use MARTA whenever possible. Rather than compare Atlanta to other major cities of the world, you must look at the historical genesis of the city and move forward. It is always easy to criticize but more challenging to build on what we have in place.
By the way, I am not a native Atlantan. I spend months travelling around the world and I try to use mass transit whenever possible. Part of Atlanta’s problem is the perception is that “mass transit is for the other guy not me”. More eateries would spring up around places like the Woodruff Arts Center, if owners knew that there would be pedestrians instead of everyone getting back in their cars and leaving without a passing glance.

Stacy

July 7th, 2010
12:57 pm

I too have wanted to try this place out but the prices detur me. I LOVE the street vendor idea – to have those around the High – but not hot dog stands. The street vendors who have been over at the Sweet Auburn Market monthly are superb!

ZJ

July 7th, 2010
1:53 pm

Three of the best museum restaurant meals I’ve ever had: 1. Pizza at the Vatican Museum (yes, it’s some of the best) 2. Light fare at the Capitoline Museum, Rome, and 3. The Cafe at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The Vatican and the CMA restaurants do something that is perfect for the space and they do it perfectly: they’re both cafeterias.

Katie

July 7th, 2010
2:32 pm

Enter your comments here

High?

July 7th, 2010
2:45 pm

why are people complaining, this is typical Atlanta. And $14 to park THERE? give me a break

Katie

July 7th, 2010
2:47 pm

A seemingly random aside – but it does go back to a great and affordable meal.

The background: Last night I finished up a meeting late in midtown and was starving. I went to Park 75 at the Four Seasons Hotel (just down the street from Table 1280) planning on getting a snack and a cocktail from the bar and instead…

The Deal: happened upon a great 3 course prix fixe menu…with wine…for $45…at a very high quality restaurant…and let me tell you – it would have been worth paying full price – it was completely delicious, and the fact that it was so affordable – well, we all know that’s a great extra! Apparently last night was the first night they were offering this deal, but it will last through the summer and the menu will change regularly.
Needless to say I’ll definitely head back to Park 75 for this awesome deal. Just thought I’d share the info so you all can take advantage as well… Oh right, and the valet parking is free (again, FREE!) Quite a sweet ending.

The Nerve

July 7th, 2010
3:37 pm

I can’t believe people want reviews of places like Longhorn, Chili’s and Golden Corral. Seriously?

Tom

July 7th, 2010
3:47 pm

Here’s a sincere hope that the powers that be at the Arts Center read John’s plea and take it to heart. The High goes to all sorts of lengths to make the museum friendly to the general public….but then the restaurant is at extreme odds with that philosophy.
I live just across the street from the High so I go to 1280 periodically. But it is too expensive to be a frequent hangout. And there are a handful of restaurants in the area with comparable food. But, I would LOVE to be able to go to 1280 more often, either for a coffee and treat in the afternoon or a glass of wine and a snack in the evening. The setting is lovely and should be a frequent destination both for us in the neighborhood as well as visitors to the area.
The concept has been off since the day it opened. I am amazed that it is still open.

Connie

July 7th, 2010
4:28 pm

I think there are several restaurants and chefs that don’t receive quite the attention they deserve. One of my personal favorites is Chef Robert at Park 75. How ironic that Park 75 is just across the street from Table 1280 and a far better dining and service expereince from the one you described at 1280. Not only has Robert learned to make hotel dining less stuffy and more enjoyable, but the pricing at Park 75 is what makes me most comfortable. Just yesterday I enjoyed a great three course meal, with wine for $45. Oh, and did I mention free valet parking?! Perfect timing with this posting, John! What better time to turn off the ‘real’ity TV and tune in to more ‘real’ and talented chefs like Chef Robert.

John Kessler

July 7th, 2010
5:28 pm

I really love the idea of a street food fair in the piazza. I’ve got an email out to the press office at the arts center, and I’ll see if I can run the idea up the flagpole.
Seriously — it’s what that piazza needs.

Another WAC Fan

July 7th, 2010
8:48 pm

Restaurant Assoc has a lock on all food at the Arts Center, JK… Think about it…thats the only reason WHY 1280 has stayed open even with terrible service, high costs and a revoloving door of chefs-because they HAVE to be open…I bet its in their contract that in order to be exclusive food service providers they must operate an onsite restaurant…

Mark

July 7th, 2010
10:03 pm

Table 1280 is the only restaurant I know of that is located in an arts center that makes absolutely no attempt to accommodate the needs of arts events patrons. What about a pre-theatre menu? Why can’t the bar stay open until 10:30 or 11 after the symphony or theatre for people who would like wine or coffee and dessert?

Jerry

July 8th, 2010
8:13 am

As regular concert goers we were happy when 1280 opened. A new restaurant and we no longer had to make a saparate stop elsewhere for dinner. After three attempts we stopped eating there. Food was expensive, small portions and service formal and unfriendly. Tried again two years later and nothing changed. Now we eat Fanfare on the second floor at Woodruff. Food is excellent with reasonable prices and friendly service. Ambiance not the highest quality but ambiance, while important, is not a deciding factor in where we eat at a restaurant.

sansho1

July 8th, 2010
9:28 am

To the Park 75 employees — okay, okay, we get it. Sounds nice. Try taking out an ad.

barbara

July 8th, 2010
1:11 pm

I am so glad you wrote this article on Table 1280! Having lived in NYC, D.C., California and 8 other places, I was amazed that a no-brainer restaurant connected to the High was so wrongly conceived. I have to disagree with Dan also. Go to the Houston arts district or the Minneapolis Art Museum and you will have a wonderful eating experience that even Honest Consumer would appreciate (though I have to say that a lettuce, cucumber, tomato etc. salad can be made at home so why order it out). I hope the powers that be read your article and are reading this blog. Talk to the customers and make the small changes it requires to be really successful!