Fish is a comparative lightweight on the menu; Harran, 46, should consider that a laurel. Rockfish perched on wilted kale, olives and fennel gets a sweet kiss from citrus poking out from underneath. The kitchen offered the fish as a special one night, augmented with supple lamb-filled ravioli and lentil ragout, both welcome accessories.
The thin golden french fries that ride shotgun with the agreeable hamburger are among the sides you don’t want to miss here. Macaroni and cheese, the ideal marriage of creamy and crisp, yields another crowd favorite. More virtuous, but just as pleasurable, is the current darling of the vegetable world, cauliflower, which gets roasted in the hearth and tossed with cranberries and honeyed nuts.
Gripes? Lunch tastes as if the B team were in charge. I never go in the afternoon that I don’t think evening is the better time to eat at Woodward Table. A stodgy shepherd’s pie made with duck and a dated plate of rare tuna, clumsy preparations both, shape that impression.
Meat eaters are clearly the favored class at Woodward Table. One of the few vegetarian options among the main courses is potato gnocchi sharing their bowl with trumpet mushrooms, squash, Brussels sprouts, hazelnuts and soubise, an onion sauce enriched with bechamel. Sounds interesting, but the dish is a heavy, one-note quilt on the tongue. A few bites in and its recipient is likely to surrender. The diner avoiding meat should hope to find, as I did, a flatbread dressed with broccoli rabe, red onion, fresh basil and a tomato “fondue.”
The food is delivered by servers who display varying degrees of polish. Cheers for the one who remembered what I had ordered on a previous visit and pointed out fresh highlights. And a brickbat to her colleague who tried to push more food and drink on us than we wanted, often interrupting my companions at precisely the wrong moment. With a straight face, he informed us that the side dishes were designed to complement the entrees, as if no other restaurant had ever considered the notion. Get the man a coach!
Your server may mention the name behind the desserts. Beverley Bates inspires diners at Vidalia to stay in their seats for another course, and you’d be smart to stick around for some of her handiwork at Woodward Table. Among the magnets are banana cream pie with caramelized fruit and a cloud of whipped cream, and an apple sampler starring an orchard-true sorbet, miniature tarte Tatin, apple mousse with white chocolate and spiced apple cupcake.
While Woodward Table shares some admirable qualities with its siblings, the baby in the family feels as if it’s still finding its own voice.