Derek Bray, chef of University Place’s Grassi’s Ristorante, will open his own restaurant this summer in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood. The Table will open at 2715 Sixth Ave., next door to Marrow.
Bray’s new space previously was occupied by Southern Exposure, which had a six-month tenure in 2014.
Bray will finish his job at Grassi’s this month. He was the opening chef at the Italian restaurant founded by Ken and Kim Grassi, who operate the restaurant with daughter Melanie.
Bray also cooked for two years at Tacoma’s Adriatic Grill, which is why I wondered if his menu would encompass the Mediterranean fare for which he’s become known.
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His new 74-seat restaurant will be closer to “New American,” said Bray in a phone interview last week.
He just took possession of the space, but already has demolished a wall at the rear of the restaurant. The Table is named after the showpiece of the restaurant, a long 20-seat wooden table that will span the length of the dining room. Bray intends to use the table for communal seating. The remainder of the seating will be more conventional: Bench seating will run along the shared wall with Marrow, with tables for parties of two or four. Larger booths will be placed up front near the windows.
He selected the restaurant’s name to convey a few ideas to diners. “The Table, you can look at it as that it’s artistic and fun. The table is where community happens, where you invite family over and bring your friends.”
Here’s what else Bray has planned:
Opening: By mid-summer.
Meal service: The restaurant will serve happy hour and dinner. No lunch service.
Food concept: A menu that fluctuates with the season. Bray described a dinner menu of New American fare with Northwest ingredients, regional American flourishes and the occasional Asian and Mediterranean accent. The menu will focus on from-scratch cooking, all the way down to sausage, pasta and pickled vegetables.
Appetizers: Pastrami salmon made in house, with pickled mustard seeds; and fried local fish of the day with salsa verde, preserved lemon and celery seed aioli.
Dinner items: Lamb sausage with corn grits, blistered peppers, crumbled goat cheddar and cherry gastrique. Black cod with a miso glaze, vegetable hash and fried Brussels sprouts. Whole roast chicken for two with romesco sauce.
Where’s the starch? Notice that starches are missing from some dishes? Bray said he’ll focus on meat and vegetables for main dishes, with starches available for ordering on the side. He described housemade ricotta gnocchi, macaroni and cheese and fried new potatoes with herbs.
“If you want a heavy starch or a full starch, they’ll be quasi a la carte. It fits with the food trend, lots of people are moving away from starches. I feel like you’re getting more flavor for your food dollar if you leave off the starch and you’re able to do a more elegant garnish or a little more thought in the additions to your protein.”
Vegetarian fare: He’ll have some menu items on the specials list for those who eschew meat.
Desserts: Made in house, and kept simple.
Bar: Beer and wine menu; a small bar area. No cocktails.
Communal happy hour (maybe): One idea he’s got percolating, and remains just an idea at this point, is a regular communal feed during happy hour. “It’ll be an open meal, like a crew meal happy hour. You come in, you pay a flat rate, you get a drink and you get a family style food that people get to share.” He said the crew meal —a term commonly used in restaurants for the meal sometimes fed to staffers before dining service — would cycle through projects of the moment and new menu items.”
Price range: Appetizers, $8-$12; salads and sides $7-$10; entrees, $20-$28.
Decor: Northwest rustic with reclaimed wood used on tabletops; polished concrete floors; muted earth tones in the dining room.
Dress: Bray said he’s seeking a comfortable, bistro-like atmosphere with a come-as-you-are dress code. “I want it to be comfortable, no matter how you come in,” said Bray.