The Chef's Table: An "Epic" Experience in Columbus, GA
Wow. I don't quite know where to begin. Maybe with the eight courses of decadent and carefully plated dishes. Maybe with the professionalism of the staff or the cleanliness of the kitchen. Or maybe with the wine and spirits pairings that were so perfect it made it hard to determine where the bite ended and the sip began. No matter how you slice it, the experience sitting at the Chef's Table inside Columbus's Epic Restaurant was a check off the 'ol bucket list for a foodie like me. I'd recommend Epic Restaurant for anyone craving a fine dining experience, but for something truly coveted, forego the dining room and reserve their Chef's Table. Have you watched Netflix's The Chef's Table? Yea. It was kinda like that. Not just kinda. It was just like that. Minus the dramatic music and creepy chemists trying to make your food fly. I booked the Chef's Table at Epic for my husband's 30th birthday dinner and luckily they had availability. Though there are some variations to what we reserved, our Chef's Table experience consisted of two seats in the heart of the Epic kitchen, a personalized menu of eight courses, and to all of that we added wine pairings. Epic has a Level II Sommelier on staff (Carson) who I'm convinced is also a mind-reader. I knew me and Carson were meant to be when he paired our first course with sake. I friggin' love sake.
The Chef and owner, Jamie Keating, came to greet us and brought us the amuse bouche, which roughly translates to amusement for the mouth. Sounds dirty, and it was since we licked it off the plate. We were actually supposed to lick it off the plate. Took us a few minutes to figure out that the Chef was not joking. This might be my preferred way of eating from now on. I am also quite humbled in knowing that there is now a picture of me on the internet in my fancy dress licking a plate. It's safe to say that I could never be President with these kinds of skeletons in my closet. Anyways, the amuse bouche was a "Taste of Japan" in the form of an octopus ceviche. Since I'm taking my second trip to Japan in March, this effectively made Chef Keating my Lord and Savior.
Moving on to the next three courses, we were continually wow'd (wowed? wow'ed?) by the richness of the dishes. Like the amuse bouche, the 2nd course was also of the Asian persuasion; a delicious Chilean sea bass with dashi. I have tried and failed to make a good dashi at home. Good kombu (seaweed) for the dashi is hard to come by in these parts, but Epic appears to know a guy who knows a guy (insert winky face emoji). This was my favorite course of the whole meal. But of course, the sea bass was followed by smoked duck and bone marrow. As we scooped those delicious innards out of the shank I couldn't help but think of that scene from Dead Poets Society where the students experience "sucking the marrow out of life." This quote basically sums up the Chef's Table.
After this came the veal cheeks with truffles. I've never had truffles before except on truffle French fries, which always taste like regular fries, so it was quite a treat. All of these courses were served to us by the Sous Chef, Brandon, a former Infantryman who was stationed at Fort Benning. Being military ourselves, he of course regaled us with stories of barracks shenanigans while simultaneously smoking our duck tableside. Thank you for your service Brandon!
By this point, Chef Keating presents us with a divine intervention of Thai Coconut Sorbet; a palette cleanser. Though cool on the tongue, the sorbet had a nice kick of heat along with powerful flavors like cardamom and carrot. My husband slapped me a few times to make sure I was still alive. I was in fact dead and frolicking in foodie Heaven.
At this point in the article, I will also take an intermission from the food to reflect on the service. You've probably noticed the inspirational signs and quotes on the kitchen's walls. No matter where you turned you could see the reflection of these quotes in the crew's every move. They take pride in their food, but also in cultivating an unforgettable experience that starts and ends with a very clean kitchen. It's refreshing as a guest to be trusted in the kitchen of a restaurant. They are confident in their craft and don't mind if you see them in action.
Next came the Wagyu striploin and foie gras. It's hard to put into words how decadent this dish was, so I'll just refer you to the picture. I also blacked out, figuratively that is, and was of little help to anyone after this course.
And just like in the movies after a good bout of love-making, it was time for a smoke. This came in the form of an edible cigar and a glass of bourbon. As you can see from the pictures, I was a bit behind on finishing my pairings from the previous courses, but decided to down them all while relaxing with my minced-pork cigar wrapped in grape leaves and edible potato-paper. It was a solid decision I might add. The waiters agreed and did a victory dance.
And now the moment you've all been waiting for, dessert! Just as the previous seven courses were full of surprises, the eighth was no different. No plates this time, but we did get silverware (thanks Chef!). A table-sized rubber placement was rolled out in front of us on which the dessert would literally be created and painted. There must've been 10 different ingredients at least. Banana bread, strawberries, chocolate ice cream made from liquid nitrogen...I blacked out again. It was a true production.
Top all that off with lighting a candle with a torch and singing Happy Birthday. I'd say it was a pretty solid evening. Most importantly, the birthday boy approved it.
For anybody who's looking for a triple-threat meal (great food, great service, great atmosphere) near Fort Benning, booking the Chef's Table at Epic is an absolute must. It's truly unlike anything else you'll experience in the area. I myself am anxiously awaiting my own 30th birthday if only to return again to the Chef's Table. If my husband is reading this, I hope he's taking notes.
about the author
Riley is an active duty US Army Captain and the Founder of Right and Up. She’s currently stationed in Washington, DC, with previous assignments at Fort Huachuca, Fort Bliss, Fort Riley and Fort Benning. You can typically find her eating embarrassingly large amounts of food in local restaurants, or exploring her military town with her husband, Sean and her dog, Gus. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!