Zero Pretense, Warm Meals at Art of the Table

A taste of chef Dustin Ronspies' down-to-earth cooking in a teensy space in Wallingford.
Allison Austin Scheff  |   April 2011   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Art of the Table
The setting is intimate at Art of the Table in Wallingford

Recently, I had my first meal at this four year old hidden dinner club, and my goodness, it was earthy, interesting and delicious.

The restaurant, open since 2007, serves a set menu—four courses for $55; wine pairings tack on an extra $35—each night except Mondays (when it does a small-plates dinner; see website for info on that), and the menu evolves subtly with the quietest turn of the seasons.

Calling the sliver of a dining room in a quiet area of Wallingford a “restaurant” seems wrong. Communal tables and a space so small you could reach yours arms out and hug the person across the room make dinner at Art of the Table feel much more like a warm gathering in someone’s home. That someone is Dustin Ronspies, the chef and owner, who humbly introduces himself and each dish as the evening moves along, encouraging diners to chat up their neighbors.

There’s a bit of kumbaya going on here, which is especially apparent when Ronspies, who began cooking as a child and spent years as a personal chef prior to opening AOTT, gently strikes a gong hanging in the dining room to introduce each course, such as intoxicating dashi broth enriched with pork belly and prawns, steelhead cooked to absolute perfection and partnered with wild mushrooms, and sunchoke chips so good I wish I could’ve bought a bag of them. Dessert—a cloying pecan-caramel tart with a rosemary ice cream full of needles—is the only course I didn’t enjoy. And though the wine pairings were smart, the price for them was on the high side. Still, I can’t think of another place where the stylish, down-to-earth food is prepared with so little pretense.

Dinner Mon., Thu.–Sat. Wallingford, 1054 N 39th St.; 206.282.0942; artofthetable.net. $$$

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