Are we going for drinks or are we going for dinner?
This distinction matters less and less thanks to new places like the Sound Table — reviewed in today’s paper — that try to break down that wall between bar and restaurant. I believe these places are on the vanguard of a major generational shift. Younger diners consume their food and drink differently.
As one of the Sound Table’s owners explained to me, the menu is “modular” — i.e., composed of dishes that stand on their own, but fit together into something resembling a balanced meal. Meats on one plate, vegetables on another, snacks and sides on yet others. Each stands out with its own flavor profile that you can appreciate as you pass and share.
The drinks list — which I found to be more successful than the menu — is also modular. No, I didn’t try all two dozen house cocktails, but the couple I ordered were both balanced so that the sweet, bitter, sour and stinging alcohol flavors played a memorable tune together. The wines by the glass and beers are few but astoundingly well chosen — offering a variety of styles and origins. Every bite or sip here offers a distinctive impression; you consume with purpose.
Other local places that get this is-it-a-bar-or-restaurant vibe are the Sound Table’s big brother, Top Flr, and Holeman & Finch Public House. When I’ve traveled to other cities, I’ve gotten the same feeling from Avec in Chicago and Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York.
What anchors the best restaurants in this genre are always a couple of signature dishes that hit it out of the ballpark. When I meet up with family in New York, we often end up at Ssäm Bar to revel in pork buns, but then we also love the bracing white wines, the seasonal vegetables and the other flavors that lodge in memory. I’ll be watching the Sound Table to see if this smart restaurant can live up to its game-changing potential.