8060 Via Dellagio Way, Suite 106
Anyone who’s hosted a dinner party knows what it’s like to suffer through the inevitable pre-event angst of planning, preparing and pondering: Will everyone get along? Will everyone have a good time? Will everyone like my cooking? When it’s all said and done, the event can leave some folks exhausted – and wary of hosting another such event in the future. So modeling a restaurant after the dinner-party concept may seem like gastro-masochism to some, but chef-owner-spouses Loren Falsone and Tyler Brassil wouldn’t have it any other way. The pair received national recognition at Falsone’s restaurant Empire in Providence, R.I., then moved to Orlando in 2003 when she became executive chef of Seasons 52. The pair now teach at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, run a restaurant consulting company and, on Friday and Saturday nights at precisely 7 p.m., host five-course dinner parties with ever-changing menus at the Table – their 22-seat “restaurant” in the Dellagio Town Center.
No need to bring a bottle of wine, flowers or a side dish – just make reservations on their website, cough up $100 (per person, tax and gratuity included) and try not to get lost finding the frosted doors leading into the Table’s dining room. Upon entering one Saturday night, we were greeted by the gaze of about a dozen bubbly-sipping strangers assembled at various points next to the dominating marble table, all making a half-hearted effort to mingle with the other assembled guests. We ambled to the bar, got our welcome libation and joined the group just in time to enjoy hors d’oeuvres of sesame aged beef and curried hummus. The guests, mostly moneyed Bay Hill types, appeared eager to eat – a couple, in fact, had already staked claim to their seats.
At about 7:45, we took our seats under the spectacular chandelier and listened to chef Falsone and her business partner, Dominick Tardugno, introduce the evening’s courses and wine pairings. The smoked stuffed artichoke confounded a few diners at first, but once the proper eating method was grasped, not a leaf was left unsucked on the way to the heart. Just as impressive was the odd, intense and complex 2008 Scholium Project “The Prince in His Caves” sauvignon blanc. Peppery acqua pazza broth was a pleasant surprise in a bowl of flounder and Canaveral shrimp sitting atop corn-kernelled mashed potatoes. The verdicchio paired nicely, but a coupling of the fruit-forward 2008 Dinastia Vivanco tempranillo with smoky pork and tubular perciatelli pasta seemed off. Preceding dessert was a cheese course of goaty Truffle Tremor, a French double cream and balsamic BellaVitano that, at times, seemed at odds with the full-bodied Malbec. But all was forgotten after a bite of heavenly tiramisu drizzled with barrel-aged Manhattan caramel and served with a 2010 Villa Rosa moscato.
The guests were hardly raucous; they seemed more reserved and insular than we had expected. “That’s not normal,” Brassil confided to me as I sipped an espresso. “We often have to get guests to pipe down and eat.” This particular group dynamic may have lacked the proper chemistry, but when most of the guests had left, we had a blast chatting with Falsone, Tardugno and the wait staff and didn’t leave until 11 p.m. It was the first time that evening that we felt the mood take on that of a proper dinner party, and not a dinner for schmucks.