House of Carts: 8 Restaurants Offering Tableside Service to Make You Feel Like a VIP

Why walk over to the bar, the kitchen, or the cheese display when it can come to you? Restaurants are now using carts to convey everything from cocktails and Champagne to entrees and the cheese course to their guests. The mobile filling stations allow staffers to give diners a show by accompanying their meal by crafting a top shelf martini, cracking open a clay-baked fish, or popping the cork on a rare bottle of bubbles for them. Here are eight restaurants offering exquisite tableside service, guaranteed to make you feel like a VIP.

Bourbon Steak, Washington, D.C.
Head bartender Torrence Swain created the Monkey Business tiki-inspired cocktail just so tipplers could enjoy a show at the table. Made with Monkey Shoulder Scotch and Drambuie, it’s served over ice with flame-kissed, brûléed banana and freshly grated nutmeg. Warning: if you enjoy too many, you may be inclined to start swinging from the chandeliers while loudly proclaiming you’re the king of the jungle.

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Charlie Palmer at The Knick, New York, New York
Legend has it that that Knickerbocker Hotel was the birthplace of the Martini. To honor that legacy, the restaurant offers a cart packed with all the components for the classic cocktail (available upon request or for special events). Expect to find a bottle of Tanqueray No. Ten, dry and rouge vermouth, and orange and citrus bitters, as well as all the necessary equipment. (Ed. note: I seriously hope there’s a vodka option available.)

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Kachina Southwestern Grill, Westminster, Colorado
Echoing a traditional Native American cooking technique, rainbow trout is stuffed with lemon, thyme, and pungent epazote leaves, shrouded in cornhusks, and wrapped in clay etched with a fish drawing. After it’s baked, the pescetarian entree is wheeled to the table and cracked open for the guest.

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The Source, Washington, D.C.
On a foggy Sunday morning, there is no more welcome sight than this Bloody Mary cart coasting in our direction across the dining room. Choose from three options: classic, Chesapeake topped with Crab Louis Salad and horseradish panna cotta, or spicy Sichuan accompanied by pickled chilies. Then add your choice of celery, olives, and a slew of salts. Suddenly, our hangovers aren’t that bad after all.

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The Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel, New York City
Paging 007, your Martini cart awaits! James Bond would choose between perfectly chilled Chopin Potato vodka or Ketel One while those who prefer gin can opt for either Tanqueray No. Ten or Plymouth. His is shaken, not stirred, of course, but you can go your own way. Licensed to thrill.

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Trending on Restaurant Reviews: Ricotta

Ricotta-toast-blogRicotta is one of the easiest cheeses to make. It requires no aging, so it can be eaten — literally — minutes after it is made. The simplicity of ricotta coupled with its rich flavor and creamy texture have made it a popular choice for housemade cheeses at restaurants around the U.S. Chefs are using ricotta alongside ingredients both sweet and savory, and in courses ranging from appetizers to desserts. Like the diner at Market Table, below, I recently discovered the pleasures of ricotta cavatelli and remain positively addicted. If you have not tried them, run, don’t walk. They are that good. Find out what folks have been saying about the dishes featuring this fresh cheese in recent OpenTable restaurant reviews.

A Toute Heurre, Cranford, New Jersey: “I had the ricotta and mozzarella pasta, and two days later woke up reminiscing about it.”

ABC Kitchen, New York, New York: “A great meal! Love the ricotta and rhubarb appetizer.”

Anna Maria Pasteria, Chicago, Illinois: “We finished with the dessert of the evening — a ricotta cheese parfait with cherry sauce. Perfect.”

Belli Osteria, Berkeley, California: “Started off sharing the fresh ricotta with honey, walnuts, and arugula, and it reminds me what ‘fresh’ is all about. Perfect starter.”

Bills Sydney, Honolulu, Hawaii: “Ricotta hotcakes for dinner a new favourite.”

Cesca, New York, New York: “Ricotta fritters at dessert fabulous”

* County, New York, New York: “The ricotta honey appetizer was perfect.”

Graffiato, Washington, D.C.: “The gnocchi with whipped ricotta and crispy rosemary alone is worth the trip!”

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Trending on OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Burrata

[singlepic id=133 w=400 h=320 float=right]Depending on your age, the very first time you try burrata, you may experience anger. That sounds crazy, but hear me out. You see, unless you’re trying it as a child, your love-at-first-bite sentiments of delight could quickly give way to bitterness, a bitterness born of the fact that for however many years you’ve been eating quality cheese, you have *not* been eating beautiful burrata. Before you despair entirely, however, know that it is burrata season, and you’ve got ample opportunities to make up for lost time. I describe burrata as the lovechild of just-pulled mozzarella and fresh ricotta — which isn’t entirely accurate, but it gives the unchristened a general idea of what I’m getting at when my ‘Trust me!’ isn’t cutting it. More precisely, burrata is freshly pulled buffalo or cow milk curd shaped into a purse of sorts and then filled with cream and curd. There are many ways to enjoy it, from being paired with oysters to a simple presentation of crusty bread and a drizzle of quality olive oil. Burrata’s name comes from the Italian word imburrato, which means ‘buttered’ — and once you sample this rich, simple cheese, you’ll understand the connection. Find out what your fellow OpenTable diners are saying about burrata in recent restaurant reviews!

360 Bistro, Nashville, Tennessee: “Our daughter thought her dish was the best of all — Italian burrata & Alto Adige speck with zucchini ribbons, truffle oil, and Tennessee dark honey on toasted baguette.”

* A Bellagio, Campbell, California: “If you like cured meat and excellent burrata, then this is the place for you! Burrata is a must! It is so creamy.”

Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro, San Francisco, California: “Loved the arancini — savory little rice balls filled with burrata.”

Acqua Al 2, Washington, D.C.: “The special appetizer was a super fresh burrata and apricots.”

Brunello Trattoria, Culver City, California: “We started with the arugula salad with burrata cheese and hearts of palm, which was excellent.  Exactly what I was craving.”

Chez Soi, Manhattan Beach, California: “Mad props to the chef at Chez Soi! He chooses his ingredients carefully and really lets each one shine in the dishes he prepares. The smoked and grilled peach that accompanies the gorgeous burrata, for example, added a lovely twist to an already lovely plate.”

Circa 1922, Wilmington, North Carolina: “The burrata with heirloom tomatoes was outstanding — so good we both wish we had ordered two instead of sharing. The waiter’s suggestion of pairing it with a tapas plate of speck made it even more spectacular.”

Cotogna, San Francisco, California: “To a first timer, I recommend anything with burrata cheese because they do it better than anyone else.” Continue Reading

Trending on Recent OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: The Cheese Course

Forget Jell-O! There's always room for cheese!

For a time (a sad, dark time), many diners were accustomed to cheese as a snack that was wholly discrete from anything served at the dining table. Since cheese has claimed its rightful place on well-rounded menus, the cheese course has become a mainstay at restaruants, from those offering classic cheese carts or elaborate tasting menus as well as eateries serving a simple cheese plate as an appetizer or dessert. Find out where OpenTable diners are encountering dairy in its finest form (apologies to ice cream enthusiasts).

Acadia, Chicago, Illinois: “We had the six-course tasting menu with wine pairings. The course was a great mixture of flavors. One course was cheese and one dessert. Some of the dishes were so tasty I would have liked to have requested another.”

Afternoon Tea-The Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia: “This experience lived up to my expectations in every way. It is pricey, but well worth it. We had the Diamond Jubilee tea ($90 pp) which included a cheese course with honey from the Empress hives. The chef visited the table to explain about them.”

Bastille, Alexandria, Virginia: “We had the three-course prix fixe menu with cheese course and wine pairings. All the courses were exceptional and the ambiance (we sat outside) was great.”

Boka, Chicago, Illinois: “Cheese course in lieu of dessert was excellent, accompanied by perfect garnishes.”

* Comme Ca, West Hollywood, California: “What a great restaurant. This trip was for my 50th birthday, and the staff did everthing they could to make it great. When our entrees were running a bit behind, the manager came up with a complimentary cheese course, which is a sign of a great manager!”

Corbett’s Fine Dining, Louisville, Kentucky: “Cheese course for dessert… all perfectly ripened and a couple of cheeses one doesn’t see often in restaurants.”

Decca, Louisville, Kentucky: “So, still a tad hungry we shared coffee and the cheese plate. I have to say it was really, really good and was a great pairing of sweet and savory!”

DGBG, New York, New York: ” I highly recommend the (spicy!) bloody mary, “Frenchie” burger, and you must get a cheese course!”

Firefly, An American Bistro, Manasquan, New Jersey: “The chef sent out a cheese course as an amuse bouche, which was outstanding. It was not something that I normally would have ordered, but I loved it!”

Five Fifty-Five, Portland, Maine: “I had the scallops and mashed potatoes, which were also tasty, followed by the cheese course — a slice of goat cheese with apricot jam and honey — an unusual but perfect combination.”

L’Espalier, Boston, Massachusetts: “Some stand-outs were the excellent lobster, the watermelon amuse (infused with lavender and mint), and the cheese course (a specialty of the restaurant).”

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