The term "Kentucky Proud" usually refers to comestibles, but at Table Three Ten it should include design. Refurbishing the space that once was her father's law office, co-owner Andrea Sims has brought her infallible aesthetic to Short Street.
Three Ten's urbane and confident style raises Lexington's ambience bar: the exposed interior, flawless lighting and fanciful murals set the mood for sophisticated yet unpretentious dining. Behind the bar, a display of bottles and glasses reaches the ceiling. Back toward the tiny kitchen, the wall continues its double duty as exhibition space for big bags of Weisenberger Mill flours and grits. A Big Ass fan keeps the air circulating. The windowed front gives a full view of street life.
Equal brilliance with food and wine comes courtesy of Krim Boughalem and his team of kitchen talent. Boughalem's constant presence suggests pride and assures quality.
Like all menus featuring small plates, this one is best approached as a set of experiences.
The outstanding wine list that includes several varietals in four serving sizes ("sample/glass/carafe/bottle") encourages extensive mixing and matching, as does the selection of 20 cheeses and 11 charcuterie, domestic and imported. Among these, Kentucky is surprisingly underrepresented, but the selection still offers something for everyone. Eclectic condiments — perhaps dried fig chutney, plum jam, pickled carrots or cornichons — are unerringly paired. Don't miss the lovely Dutch goat gouda, rich and not too pungent, or the sweet and salty Broadbent ham from Kuttawa in Lyon County.
But the dishes made in-house, cold or hot and varying by season, are the real show-stoppers.
Some are wonderfully simple, such as the earthy lentil salad tossed with a perfect vinaigrette, or sautéed oyster mushrooms, piping hot and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and fresh thyme, or collards and black-eyed peas — soulful in spite of being slightly undercooked.
Others are delightfully iconoclastic.
Diced blood orange "gelee" harmonizes surprisingly well with house-smoked chunks of salmon, blending sweet and tart, texture and temperature. "Iced" with crème fraiche and decorated with minced chives, this is the ultimate reinvention of deli food, a riff on lox and cream cheese, with fingerlings standing in for potato salad.
Contradicting predictable regional crab cakes comes a creamy salad of sweet Pacific Dungeness crab, piqued with minty herbs, smeared on unfortunately dry white bread. Once again, the garnishes — here, sweet vinegared cucumber slices — make the dish pop.
And sweet scallop seviche, on discs of sweet potato, never tasted better than this version scattered with slivers of spicy red chilies, cilantro, and red onion, bathed lightly in the rich house olive oil.
My two favorites, however, were the decadent steak tartare — chopped raw beef from Spencer County, lushly dressed in oil and chives and jeweled with capers —and the fabulous and generous bowl of Penn Cove mussels in a broth of cream and mussel liquor with crunchy slices of grilled baguette.
But pace yourself, because it would be criminal to skip dessert.
The silky banana panna cotta in subtle citrus syrup is served with an airy macaron that is to die for. Crème brûlée works brilliantly with delicate homemade Oreos. And how creative is it to deconstruct lime cheesecake by molding dense cheese filling, placing it on a smear of lime curd and topping everything with a homemade graham cracker, redolent of cinnamon? It's a hands-down improvement on a tired standard.
With Table Three Ten, Boughalem and Sims have followed their triumph of Wine + Market with another victory, scoring a total of three tens — one for ambience, one for wine and a third, of course, for fun and delicious food.
Wendy Miller is a Lexington-based food and spirits writer and critic.