“What are you the mood for?”
“Vegetables and fish.”
Tallula it was, on a deserted Sunday night, and I didn’t recognize a soul at the restaurant.
Yet, every single course, with one small exception, was a hit. My dining companion and I ordered a bunch of small plates, and just said “bring them whenever they’re ready.”
They’d just kicked their Heavy Seas cask, and were pouring aÂ Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel StoutÂ ($7, pint) from New Holland Brewing Company, Holland, MI; and my friend got both aÂ 2010 St. Hilaire Blanquette de LimouxÂ ($5, 3-ounce pour) and what was supposed to be a 2009 Bzikot White Burgundy, but was mistakenly served aÂ 2012 Altosur ChardonnayÂ ($4, 3-ounce pour) from Mendoza which turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant (and less-expensive) error made by our otherwise flawless server.
A crazy charcuterie and cheese plate consisted of a double order ofÂ Olive Oil-Poached BluefishÂ (I mean, how do you not?) and Morning Frost Sheep’s Milk “Camembert” ($14, 3 selections, $1 supplement for the perfectly ripe cheese); four out of the six items of charcuterie on offer consisted of salami, and I just wasn’t in a salami mood considering I’d just had it at Red Apron two days before. Interestingly, if you Google the cheese, Tallula and EatBar simply dominate the hits (try it and see for yourself). Obviously these items didn’t work together, but the bluefish is a wonderful starter; the cheese a wonderful closer. Almonds, olives, and a thin, toasted slice of baguette accompanied the plate.
But the baguette went to waste because Tallula’s bread basket (gratis) was really good, and so was the butter, especially on the dark, warm raisin loaf – you’re going to be pretty happy with the bread service here, and it’s worth noting since bread has become such a dying art form in restaurants.
TheÂ Ricotta & Spring Garlic FritterÂ ($10) with bagna cauda and pimento coulis was a fine fritter, and the pimento coulis was as pure as can be; the only flaw of the evening was an over exuberant application of garlic, primarily in the bagna cÃ uda, which made the dish tough going, especially towards the end – a minor adjustment, and you have a winner here.
Braunschweiger RavioliÂ ($11) was a single raviolo, stuffed with a coarse, almost ground, version of mild liver sausage, accompanied by teeny-tiny baby English peas, pearl onions that I never did get ahold of, and a red wine gastrique which lent a refreshing sweetness to this plate.
What could have been a throwaway side dish ofÂ CauliflowerÂ ($5) was a fine entry of small, baby florets, well-seasoned, and nicely holding its own with the rest of the dishes. The vegetables here were of clearly high quality on this evening.
A couple salads rounded out this healthy, vegetable-heavy meal:Â Ham & PeasÂ ($10) with Chef Nate’s prosciutto, Tallula’s garden herbs, and lemon vinaigrette was a fine salad, but was eclipsed by the outstanding, perfectly dressedÂ Shiitake Mushroom & MizunaÂ ($11) with farm egg distributed throughout, mild shallot, and Dijon vinaigrette. Do yourself a favor and get this salad when you come.
This is the second straight meal I’ve had at Tallula when Nate Waugaman wasn’t in the kitchen (I think both were Sundays), and whoever is the sous chef is doing a fantastic job without supervision. It’s got to be a good feeling knowing that you don’t have to constantly be there, hovering over every little thing – these gentlemen in the kitchen were doing fine work.
Special thanks to our hostess for turning a four-top booth into our own little deuce. A very good showing for Tallula, which remains comfortably atop theÂ Clarendon Dining Guide.