Food Appreciation, Take 2: Art of the Table Returns in Wallingford

Art of the Table shines in its spacious new home.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

It is a special kind of tasting menu that captivates from the first bite and suspends and sustains a diner through the last spoonful of dessert. No easy feat: Nine courses with optional wine pairings can be punishing when flavors are too bold or too bland, pacing is too fast or too slow.

But even Goldilocks would love an Art of the Table tasting menu. The second incarnation of chef Dustin Ronspies’ much-loved Wallingford restaurant opened in April in a new location, on the south end of Stone Way in the buzzy strip that includes Joule, The Whale Wins and Manolin. It’s just blocks from the quirky spot it inhabited for 10 years. The restaurant outgrew that space some time ago, but how will it fare in this contemporary building with more than three times the number of seats?

Ronspies says his goal is to offer the sort of refined cuisine you might find in a Michelin-starred restaurant — he names Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert, The French Laundry’s Thomas Keller and Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm as idols — with a come-as-you-are approachability. The restaurant even has a couple of high chairs now, in honor of Ronspies’ young son. 

The hyperseasonal tasting menu sometimes changes daily ($125; wine pairings extra). It has always been offered and is still what most diners choose, the chef says, though there’s also a nightly à la carte option now, in case you don’t have three hours to spend at dinner. Dine at the half-moon chef’s counter, below an angular wood installation, and you’ll have a front-row seat to watch the seemingly effortless dance in the kitchen. Plates are paraded out to diners, each dish a taste of the season containing ingredients from a who’s who of local farms, from Pleasant View Farm’s foie gras to Kurtwood Farms’ Camembert-like Dinah cheese.

Highlights of my springtime meal included pea vine vichyssoise, a single gin-cured scallop, ramp pesto and all kinds of pickles made with last summer’s bounty. Your meal likely will be entirely different, but just as memorable.

This dedication to seasonality, built on relationships cultivated with local farmers, isn’t a gimmick here. “That farmer-chef relationship is the best symbiotic relationship in the world,” Ronspies asserts. “It’s why I do what I do.”  

This story originally appeared in the August issue of Seattle magazine. 

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