Restaurant

Feit Can Eat: Sebastian’s Table (S)

What if I told you that I went to a new restaurant and the best thing I ate was the brussels sprouts?  I’m guessing you would take that as a sign to never, ever eat at that restaurant.

But, in the case of Sebastian’s Table, a Spanish tapas style restaurant in Lincoln, that would be a very big mistake.  The sprouts, like just about everything else these serve is eyes rolling back in your head, want to lick the plate good.

Sebastian’s Table is one of the latest ventures of Ground Up Restaurants, a Lincoln group that is bringing kick-ass food to a city with an unhealthy love for chain restaurants.  First, there was the GUP Kitchen food truck, the must-try Honest Abe’s Burgers and Freedom, and the delicious Sasquatch! bakery (as well as the recently opened Sasquatch Cafe, located in a glorified coat closet in the Well Fargo building downtown).

I'm guessing he's related to the Dos Equis guy.

I’m guessing he’s related to the Dos Equis guy.

Sebastian’s is not a true Spanish tapas restaurant where most of the food is traditional (or derived from) Spanish dishes.  The best example of a true Spanish tapas restaurant in Nebraska is another favorite:  España in Omaha.  Instead, Sebastian’s is probably best described as a tapas style restaurant (i.e. small plates of food) with cuisine that may not necessarily have Spanish influences.

For those unfamiliar with the tapas concept, it’s very simple:  select one, two, or three items per person.  These dishes are meant to be shared with those at your table.  The items come out as they are prepared, so it is not like a standard restaurant where somebody’s food sits under a heat lamp while the rest of your order is finished up.

The Food

Simply put, the food is excellent.  Sebastian’s menu isn’t huge, but the flavors certainly are.  Let’s start with the aforementioned sprouts:  They are quartered and mixed with hazelnuts, piquillo peppers, and an orange gastrique.  Then the works is cooked until the brussels get a caramelized char.  And now my keyboard is covered in drool.

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Trust me, my poorly lit cell phone phone does not do them justice.

Another favorite is the beef skewers.  Thin pieces of fork-tender tenderloin grilled to perfection and topped with chimichurri, all resting on a smoky romesco sauce.  My biggest gripe is you only three in the serving, which invariably means Mrs. Feit Can Write and I have to battle over the last one.


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Heaven on a stick

 

As I mentioned earlier, not everything is Spanish per se.  One of the more popular items is their version of a spinach and artichoke dip.  The Sebastian’s version has rich smoked Gouda, parmesan cheese, spinach, and herbs and is served with some delicious bread.  It is rich, gooey, and packed with flavor.

In our two visits, we have only had one dud.  The Risotto Espanola, a risotto with a definite paella influence, has shrimp, chorizo, scallops, and chicken mixed with a tangy sauce.  It’s not that the dish was bad, it just wasn’t what we were expecting.  To her credit, our server recognized this and offered to replace the dish with something else.  We ended up with the Chorizo and Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese, and were as pleased with the fine service we received as much as we were with the bowl of creamy comfort we received.

Sebastian’s Table also does desserts, with a mixed assortment of seasonal items, a daily pie special from Sasquatch! bakery, and a rotating bread pudding.  I come from a long line of bread pudding connoisseurs, and the chocolate peanut butter bread pudding from our first visit certainly held its own.

The Drink

For Mrs. Feit Can Write and myself, one of our favorite parts of going to a Spanish restaurant is a glass (or three) of sangria.  In this regard, Sebastian’s Table does not disappoint.  There are two house made sangrias (a red and a white) on tap at the bar.  Both are very delicious and pair nicely with the various dishes.  Additionally, they have a monthly rotating sangria that features some unique flavor combinations (the March version, “Gusts of A Thousand Winds” combined pineapple, peach, pomegranate, ginger, and Sriracha into a delicious glass of sweet and spicy heaven).

Sebastian’s also has a vast wine list, local craft brews from Nebraska Brewing Company on tap, and a menu of unique craft cocktails, including the Dead Man’s Wallet, which takes rye whiskey, ruby port, lemon, and house made cinnamon syrup to create a one of kind flavor profile.

The Atmosphere

The vibe is laid back, yet classy.  Sebastian’s Table is located in an old two level building.  The smaller main level contains the bar and kitchen.  The individual tables are up a single flight of stairs.  You’re not going to find a TV turned to ESPN, and in our two visits, we have not seen very many kids.  Sebastian’s Table is perfect for date night, a night out with friends, or a fun change of pace.

Check, Please

Prices at Sebastian’s Table are reasonable to slightly above average.  Some folks may balk at paying $8 for three steak skewers (“especially when I can get a big ol’ sirloin and sides at Applebee’s for the a few bucks more!”) or $9 for my beloved brussels sprouts, but the prices aren’t bad considering the quality and taste (not to mention supporting a local business).

To be sure, you can get a bad case of sticker shock if you order a bunch of tapas, drink several glasses of sangria, and generally live it up (been there, done that, spent over $100 for two people).

But you can also have a very good, and very unique meal, a delicious cocktail or glass of sangria for less than $20 per person – especially if you go on Tuesdays when the sangria is bargain priced at $2 a glass.  Even in a chain-friendly town like Lincoln, that’s pretty good.

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Restaurant Yin and Yang

About a month ago, Mrs. Feit Can Write and I found ourselves with the opportunity for a mid-week date night.  As any parent of young kids will tell you, when these opportunities arise, you need to a) seize them, and b) maximize them.  In doing this, we saw a strange dichotomy between how two different establishments function.  What follows is a case study in restaurant extremes – how to do things, and more importantly, how NOT to do things if you want to be successful.

Even though it was a date night, our evening actually began with a familiar parental errand – taking a kid to a practice/class for one of their activities.  In this case, it was a gymnastics class that our four-year-old takes.  Normally, one of us gets her there, makes sure the class gets started, then run a quick errand (Target, grocery store, etc.).  But with both of us taking her, we decided the best thing would be to drop into the nearest establishment for a drink and an appetizer.  This led us to our first stop.

Restaurant 1:  Skeeter Barnes

First off, Skeeter Barnes is not a restaurant owned by the 1980’s standout of AAA baseball (at least to my knowledge, anyway).  It is a barbecue/steak place with three locations in Nebraska that claims to have the “best beef and BBQ around”.  While it’s never been a place I crave, they’ve been around for 10-15 years and appear to do a nice business even though the restaurant is kind of tucked away in a nondescript industrial park on the southeast corner of Lincoln.

We walked into Skeeter Barnes around 5:45 on a Thursday.  We stood, alone, in the reception area of a mostly empty restaurant for five minutes waiting for somebody to greet/acknowledge us.  There were one or two full tables and a two people sitting at the bar, but otherwise, their large space was all but deserted.  Strike one.  While we’re standing there, I notice they have a grease board saying that Long Island ice tea is on special.

We sit down in the bar area and order drinks.  My wife asks if their margaritas are good.  To her credit, the waitress responds honestly and states that they use a bottled mix, so their version is nothing special.  My wife opts for a beer.  I ask for a Long Island.  We also order an appetizer to share – one of those fried onion blooms.

A few minutes later, the waitress returns to tell me that they are out of the mix they use for their Long Islands.  Aside from questioning why they need a mix for a Long Island (it’s a bunch of booze, some sour mix and cola), I cannot fathom why they list a special if they are incapable of making it.  Remember, it’s 5:45 on a weeknight, and the place is almost empty.  It’s not like they’ve already made three dozen and used up all of their ingredients.  Strike two.

Our onion arrives, and it is less than spectacular.  Slightly burnt on the outside, lukewarm to cold on the inside.  Strike three.  We paid our bill and left to pick our daughter up from her class.

After we dropped our daughter off with the sitter, we headed out for dinner – and a complete reversal of what we had experienced earlier.

Restaurant 2:  Blue Orchid

We walked in and were immediately greeted and seated.  Blue Orchid does not have drink specials, but they do have a good menu of unique drinks made from scratch – no bottled mixes here.  I ordered a Thai Bloody Mary (house infused lemongrass and Thai chili vodka, yellow tomato juice and yellow curry paste) that was one of the best bloodies, I’ve ever had.

My wife loves their spring rolls – little rolls of deliciousness perfectly fried and served hot.  For my entrée, I ordered the yellow curry – a rich, warm, bowl of comfort with potatoes, carrots, and beef covered in a mildly spicy yellow curry.  It was outstanding.  My wife loved her dish, a spicier red curry with salmon and vegetables.

Even though we were both a little full, we each made room for two desserts that we love.  My wife loves their ginger creme brule – a rich custard flavored with ginger and topped with burnt sugar.  I got the young coconut cake, which is a white cake with a light and creamy white chocolate frosting, speckled with pieces of young coconut.  This isn’t the shredded stuff that comes out of a bag and smells oddly like sunscreen, this is the flesh of a unripened coconut – a sweet, slightly chewy delicacy.

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Postscript – Not surprisingly, about three or four weeks after our visit to Skeeter Barnes, they closed their doors.  I read that they lost their lease, but I have to believe that their lack of business was probably the biggest culprit.

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