Tableside service, during the dinner hour, had its high-style heyday back in the middle of the last century, but it is no relic of a lovelier time gone by.
One can still find Steak Diane, and Caesar Salad, and Cherries Jubilee, and Bananas Foster prepared before their eyes (and waiting forks). And there's a new tableside entry 'round Southern California, one that involves seafood, a rare player in the prepared-close-to-you roster: Chaya's Tuna Tartare.
Tuna tartare, that zingy combination of fresh tuna, aioli, capers, onions, and sweet pickles, is a specialty of the restaurant, which will now offer the tableside presentation at its downtown location during dinner. This means a stand next to your table is set up with bowls holding each of those ingredients, and if you want a bit more sweet pickle, you say so.
Or, you do what most people do while enjoying the sup-worthy show: Sit back, watch intently, and let the cook standing before your table work tuna-terrific magic.
The dish is not new to Chaya, a restaurant which is very much tied to its piquant origins. Nor is it new to Chef Shigefumi Tachibe, who is "credited for conceptualizing" Tuna Tartare three decades back. (Indeed, his knife is now in the Smithsonian.)
If you've never gotten fancy and ordered a tableside dish, it can inspire conversation and serve as a little break in the evening (hello, first date). If you love your tableside preparation, we'll wager you've only ever gone the Caesar Salad route, or Bananas Foster, but haven't yet taken on something as unusual and hard-to-find as Tuna Tartare.
Can we have just a pinch more sweet pickle, though? Just a pinch?