But when its founding chefs departed late last year, the restaurant changed concepts. Chef Ricardo Arias stepped into what must be the city’s tiniest kitchen (everything is prepared behind a four-seat counter by Arias and his team of two) and began turning out “island food,” a mash-up of Arias’ Puerto Rican heritage and his experience with Japanese cuisine at Sushi Ko.
Arias radiates casual cool, and so does his version of Dinnertable — records and Japanese magazines now decorate the space, and reggae plays softly. “I like to take dishes that are obvious and make them not so obvious,” he says, which certainly applies to his outrageously flavorful pork hot dog (“I’m Puerto Rican, I had to”), handmade with a sweet edge from sugarcane syrup and hints of miso. Yes, it’s worth the $17 price tag, and it would be a shame if you had to distract yourself with walking while savoring this upscale street classic.
There are other delights, too: Smoked trout is paired with its own roe and a sesame yogurt sauce in the cucumber salad; the sweet creaminess of risotto gets a deep sea funk from uni (“it’s a take on paella”); and, all the way from Australia, the traditional fruit dessert pavlova delights with yuzu three ways.
The cocktails merit a note, too — they’re all carbonated and come in bottles that end up being more like a drink and a half for the price of one.
What was missing is a comfort dish like Dinnertable 1.0’s famous lasagna flowers. Now that winter has made a resurgence, Arias has taken inspiration from another island half a world away from his Caribbean: Britain.
The sharing-size Samurai Pie ($38) marries the British go-to dish for cold weather, shepherd’s pie, with Japan’s comfort staple katsu curry, stewing Wagyu beef in a thick, rich sauce with carrots and edamame, topped with mashed potatoes. No amount of winter chill is getting through that.
Dinnertable (206 Ave. A, back room) is open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday.