Tap and Table
Restaurants in the Corn Hill Landing area of Rochester have been in flux almost continuously since the big revamp of the area a few years ago. Other than the mainstay Tony D’s, the churning has been consistent in every other location in that plaza including the real estate that was formerly the stylish Virtu and lives now as Tap and Table. This sister restaurant to the Southwedge’s Tap and Mallet took over their spot in 2012 and is more focused on the cuisine side of the things although the high level beer menu from the original remains a fixture.
I hadn’t made the trip to eat at Tap and Table until recently, but I’ve had a chance to sit down there a few times in the past few months with some friends and also at a social event to check out what they have to offer. I’ll cover the restaurant in a few sections and try to hit most of what I experienced.
Thanks to a phenomenal location right along the Genesee River and an interior design featuring large glass windows and neutral colors that are very popular nowadays, Tap and Table has that upscale new construction feel that is kind of comfortable but lacks old school charm. On the positive side, our group sat outside on their patio for drinks and watched the boats float by and I consider it to be one of the premier outdoor restaurant areas in the city. Getting back to the interior, it does get quite loud during dinner time and especially during the crossover between Happy Hour and the full dinner crowd. A bit much on the noise and crowded side at that time for me, but the scene does seem quite lively if that is your thing.
I can only speak from personal experience on the fresh squeezed lemonade I sampled a couple of times. The first I had spiked with Fee Brothers bitters (cherry I believe) and it ended up being a top notch sweet, sour and fruity concoction that I appreciated and downed quickly. Unfortunately, the unspiked version I had at my last visit was less successful. Overly sweet without any appreciable sourness, the cloying nature of it made me shudder on the first sip. I hope it was just an off night because I love a fresh squeezed citrus based drink and they have a lot of the makings of a hit since I’ve seen them juicing the lemons live which is at least half the battle.
On the alcoholic drinks side, I’ve heard only good things about the beer menu and the quality of the beers served. The mixed drink side has been a bit up and down, but overall on the positive side. I don’t really have any examples for you but if you like what Tap and Mallet does with beer I’m sure you’ll be in good hands with either the drafts or the bottled beers at Tap and Table. They also hosted a beer and cheese pairing at the most recent event I attended and it went very well according to all I talked to.
The first thing I noticed when looking at the dinner menu was a visual similarity to the menu at Good Luck and as a comparison that’s not a bad thing. I’d call it a gastropub menu with a focus on contemporary popular dishes across a few different cuisines. The burger is Tap and Table’s signature food item and the one I was most excited to try since it uses beef from Seven Bridges Farm, one of my go to stops for local meat and poultry. The whole affair was appealing to the eye when delivered to our table and, upon more detailed inspection, the burger itself had a decent amount of crust and on it from being grilled and had some solid smoky char flavor to complement the beef. Temperature wise it was pretty close to my requested medium rare but a little on the dryer side than what I would typically expect most likely due to the grilling process. The brioche bun held up well to the beef and the toppings and wasn’t texturally overpowering like they can be at times. The end result was satisfying but one that didn’t end up popping in any distinct way. I think it could have used a touch of acidity from a pickle or some more assertive seasoning. The house fries had a lot of browned flavor from the frying and a distinct earthy finish from the truffle salt they use. They finished a little bit on the limp side for me but strongly salted and pretty addictive. I’m still not sure about truffle flavor and I think I need to get some more exposure to the real thing before being able to state more clearly how I feel about them. It’s an intense experience and one that can feel out of place for me at times.
The kale salad we had prior to our burger had a generous amount of Bolton Farms kale and was finished with toasted breadcrumbs and shaved parmesan cheese. The dressing was a bit disappointing as it was advertised as a lemon vinaigrette but didn’t deliver that bracing acidity that was needed to work with the relatively strong flavor of the young greens.
On my most recent visit, I was in the mood for something comforting so I went with a bowl full of shrimp and grits that seemed to fit the bill. Unfortunately, the dish suffered from seasoning issues that kept it from being successful. The advertised sauteed shrimp and andouille sausage were executed well, but in short supply for a dish of that price. The biggest downfall was in the almost complete lack of salt and complementary flavors in the grits and the tomato broth. Asiago cheese was supposed to be in the grits and garlic in the tomato broth but, disappointingly, I couldn’t detect either. The end result was bland grits topped with a bland tomato broth and there is no real excuse for that.
I’m not sure where I stand right now with Tap and Table. The concept and the local sourcing of some of their food makes a lot of sense and is appealing but some execution issues left me walking away a bit dissatisfied. The other difficulty I have is with the location. Although positive from a view perspective, parking has been a nightmare just about every time I’ve tried to go to Tap and Table or to any of the other Corn Hill Landing restaurants. Not really their fault I suppose, but still a negative. I guess the best way to put it is that I would be open to be going back again if people wanted to make a trip, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to make another trip happen at this point.