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First look: New menus at La Table on Post Oak

November 26, 2018

La Table has re-set its table once again.

The two-level concept on Post Oak has seen several concept revisions since Invest Hospitality took over the management of the former Philippe Restaurant & Lounge in 2015. And now it has undergone another under new executive chef James Friedberg whose resume includes the celebrity-studded Le Cirque, Charlie Palmer’s legendary Aureole, the two-Michelin-starred Gilt, and the Michelin-recommended Blenheim Restaurant — all in New York.

Invest has entrusted the 35-year-old Friedberg to steer La Table in a new direction by improving the menu. The first week in October La Table closed for two days and essentially reopened as a new concept but with the same name, said Friedberg who oversees both the downstairs Marché bistro restaurant and the more luxurious Chateau upstairs. Except for a few popular and trusted dishes, the menus at both have been completely re-written.

“It was like opening a new restaurant, which I’ve done — it’s never easy or comfortable,” Friedberg said. “It’s like ripping off the band aid.”

The transition, however painful, has resulted in a French-inspired menu invested with modern flavors and a newfound dedicated to sourcing only the highest-quality ingredients and “not messing with them too much,” Friedberg said.

Chateau, the more formal dining room of La Table’s upstairs/downstairs operation, is rightly the chef’s focus and he has treated it as such. Friedberg’s dishes show a high degree of technique and finesse — you can see a distinguishing Aureole influence. That is true of his beet tartare with goat cheese, apple and hazelnuts; the pristine tablets of foie gras terrine and mini quenelles of date marmalade; and shrimp with chili vinaigrette and coconut foam. Under hot appetizers he offers up a caramelized cheese soufflé; Maine lobster rigatoni; harissa octopus with green olives and potato; and a mushroom consommé poured over thinly sliced mushrooms and cheese-filled ravioli.

Mains include seas scallops with crispy potato and cauliflower; a duck duo (crispy-skin breast and confit leg); yogurt- and spice-marinated Colorado lamb chops served with piperade; Berkshire pork loin with chanterelle mushrooms, onions and green apple; and Strube Ranch Wagyu beef filet with roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts and celeriac puree.

Friedberg says two dishes show his commitment to sourcing the best ingredients. He presents his Ora King Salmon, sustainably raised in New Zealand, as medallions of an herb-stuffed roulade. The salmon, fattier than Scottish, lends a more buttery flavor. It is presented with roasted beets, spaghetti squash and red cabbage in a sweet/sour vinaigrette. Another dish he’s especially proud of is his Dover sole meuniere featuring wild-caught fish flown in fresh from France. The pan-seared sole, served with grilled asparagus and brown butter, is presented tableside for two.

Two dishes that remain from Chateau’s previous menu are both tableside classics: the roasted heritage chicken and the cognac-drunk Akaushi ribeye steak.

Downtairs things may look the same but La Table has ditched its Macarons retail bakery. Marché, the ground-floor bar and restaurant, has gone under a Friedberg overhaul, too. The menu, shares some of Chateau’s dishes but offers its own bistro delights: lobster bisque, salmon tartare, tomato and mozzarella flatbread, roasted vegetable cassoulette, marinated hanger steak with fries, Akaushi cheeseburger with Vermont cheddar, and yellowfin tuna Nicoise.

La Table, Friedberg said frankly, tried to do too much. “We’re focusing on what we can do well instead of trying to do everything,” he said.

And how, besides a new menu, will La Table distinguish itself going forward? Friedberg said by an adherence to quality and execution. “I know that sounds cliché in a sense,” he said, “but it’s something we pride ourselves on. Quality and simplicity.”

Chateau and Marché at La Table, 1800 Post Oak, 713-439-1000; latablehouston.com.

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