I first went to 9 Tables in April with my friend Cameron, who could not stop talking about how his friends were raving about the place. When I heard the cost per meal was $75, I was pretty hesitant. There is a $50 option that only serves five courses as oppose to seven but I figured if I was going to go for this experience, it was all or nothing. Still, that’s a pretty penny for a poor college student and soon to be graduate such as myself, but Cameron talked me into it, and I could not be happier that he did.
Upon entering 9 Tables I was immediately welcomed by Chef Bill Justice who was busy chopping away in his open kitchen. I was hit with aromas that already had my mouth watering, and soon I was being told to pick a seat anywhere by Bill’s mother-in-law and our waitress for the evening, Sandy Colopy. Cameron, who was already engaged in conversation with Chef Justice decided we’d sit right up close so we could see everything that was being prepared.
As we cracked open our own bottles of wine since 9 Tables is B.Y.O.B. (a definite plus for a college student) our first course of tomato and avocado salad was placed before us. I had never been served anything so beautiful before. Each tomato was arranged perfectly and contrasted the green of the avocado just so. I didn’t want to ruin it with my fork. My hunger soon won out and I was not in the least disappointed that I had destroyed Justice’s work of art. And that was just the first course.
As we continued with an onslaught of courses like carrot ginger soup and mixed green and goat cheese salad, I was worried that I wasn’t going to make it until the end. My mouth had really never tasted such richness and by course three, I had already decided it was well worth every penny of that $75. I continued to be impressed by my favorite course of the entire meal, mussels in white wine sauce with garlic crouton. I’ve had mussels before, in fact I’ve had mussels in Ireland that were plucked out of the Irish sea that day, but I have never had mussels like that. They literally melted in my mouth and practically jumped off the shell. I understand this course has become something of a signature for 9 Tables and I’m glad to see that Chef Justice continues to keep it on his menu which changes monthly. Everyone should get the chance to experience mussels prepared his way.
Cameron and I forged onward through our next course of either seared Ahi Tuna or steak (we got one of each obviously). Savory lamb chops with just the right amount of pink to not make me feel nervous became our last course before desert. Never have I ever been so blissfully full and I didn’t know how I would possibly make more room until the crème brûlée was put in front of me and I was sipping smooth French pressed coffee. I don’t know how I thought I could have passed on either of those delicacies. Chef Justice even let Cameron brown the top of his own crème brûlée
And that right there is the beauty of 9 Tables, how welcome Chef Justice and his wife, Suzanne and his mother-in-law, Sandy make you feel. Yes, the food is amazing. Yes, I’ve never experienced any culinary thing like it, but the friendliness and openness of the staff make it all the more worthwhile. During seven courses, Cameron and I wound up spending around two and a half hours at 9 Tables. There’s no way I would want to spend that much time at a stiff, snooty restaurant. The warmth not only comes from the heavenly food but the amazing people that serve and cook right there in front of you.
For more about 9 Tables, read my feature story below or go to www.9tables.athensfinedining.com