Why do you dine out? Is it the quality of the food, the desire for a night away from the kids? You're tired of yet another taco Tuesday at home? To celebrate a special occasion?
Whatever the reason, sometimes it's hard to get the full package at your local restaurant: Kids are throwing food at the table two booths down, you happen to be out at on a taco Tuesday at the new Mexican place, and the special occasion is ruined by lousy service and too much noise.
What you really need is a quiet, intimate space where the chef comes to your table, takes your order, offers a pairing wine, and makes your meal to order. There isn't any glitzy décor, thumping music, or provocative crowd -- but that's OK. You came out for a relaxing, indulgent evening out. And that's exactly what you'll get at Six Tables in Boca Raton.
Despite being nearly a decade old -- and with a dining room most likely no bigger than your own -- this established restaurant is still serving a private, dinner partyesque experience compliments of its charming décor, personalized service, and a made-to-order American-French prix-fixe menu that allows for intimate interaction with the chef and a quiet, romantic dining experience unlike any other.
As the name implies, the restaurant has just six tables with a maximum capacity of 24 -- and just one 7 p.m. seating to serve a six-course meal, five nights a week. Even today, despite being tucked away in a clandestine spot in the Mizner shopping plaza, Six Tables has survived for close to a decade, drawing from a devoted clientele and word of mouth. Through highs and lows, the restaurant is -- for the most part -- full each night, and reservations are still necessary.
"This is the essence of a true restaurant experience. You're here for the experience, for the whole package. And that means there is no one else around to shoulder the responsibility of success but me," chef and owner Jonathan Fyhrie told Clean Plate Charlie recently.
You'll be given a five-course meal beginning with champagne and an amuse-bouche (small tasting plate to prep the palate). The meal proceeds with soup and salad, peaking with a selection of one of three or four main entrées, and ends with dessert. The classic chef's tasting menu is offered alongside an excellent wine list and quiet atmosphere -- the type of thing that reminds you of a private dinner party. And that's exactly the idea.
"This concept is meant to give diners that unique, personal touch," said Fyhrie, who -- each night -- is one of only three staff members attending to guests. "This is all about the experience and the food. The chef is interacting with the guests, assisting with some of the service, and preparing each meal. That's how the original creators envisioned it."
Based on the idea of hosting New York City-style swank dinner parties, Six Tables creators Roland and Gail Levi took their experience working as private chefs creating custom menus for the city's dining elite, assisting them in entertaining guests and friends at their homes. Fast forward to the first Six Tables, which first opened in Dunedin, Florida in 1998, a restaurant where Roland could create exceptional meals and interact with an exclusive, captive dining party, serving patrons with fine china and silver while pouring champagne and wine in crystal glasses. The concept was so successful that the Levis decided to license it, and today the Boca Raton restaurant is one of three -- down from a total of six -- the others being in Tampa and St. Petersburg. Now retired, they often visit the Boca Raton location where Gail's cousin -- Fyhrie himself -- continues to stay true to the couple's original vision.
And not much has changed in the past several years, save for cost. The evening is still an extended, sit-down affair -- typically two to three hours. The meals are still prepared by only one chef and served to each table at approximately the same time. For the summer menu, that means daylong prep of many of the evening's dishes, including the roasting of an entire duck should you choose that option, what Fyhrie said is a four-hour cooking process.
Is it expensive? Not really -- at least not more than you would spend per head at any other fine-dining establishment in the area, said Fyhrie. The prix fixe is currently set at $75 -- down from a high of $90 in 2000 but what was once as low as $55. The cost does not include wine, a bottle you can select off a hand-picked wine list ranging from $45 to $95 a bottle -- or bring your own for a $35 corking fee.
The entrées are set each season, selections that represent Belgium-born Roland's classical training; it's a chef's tasting menu comprised of local produce, meats and fish purchased fresh each day, and organic ingredients "where it makes sense." The soup is your choice of vegetable -- a new addition in the past few years -- or the traditional lobster bisque, what is considered one of the best interpretations in the area. Made from scratch, it's one of Roland's signature recipes, said Fyhrie, a daylong process including hand-pulled fresh Maine lobster meat for a hearty, flavorful dish.
Your choice of entrée includes poultry (never chicken; typically duck), meat, or fish. Game meats like venison are a favorite of Fyhrie's, a departure from the standard beef and potato you can find at any steak house nearby. Dessert varies but is always made from scratch and is often indulgent. When Clean Plate Charlie stopped in, the special was an espresso-laced chocolate mousse.
"It's something that you can't get with the mainstream dining scene. It's a little taste of Europe, right here in Boca Raton," said Fyhrie. "What I'd like to call a break from all the food factories out there."
So, the next time you have a special event to celebrate -- or simply want a good meal with a bit of peace and quiet -- the only question to ask is "when will you be one of the six?"
Six Tables is located at 112 NE Second St. in Boca Raton. They're open Tuesday through Sunday. Call 561-347-6260, or visit sixtablesbocaraton.com.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.