I have been really wanting to make the rounds at Danny Meyers restaurants again since reading this book, Setting the Table, a few months ago. A definite worth while read.
Last night, we went back to Tabla. Fred has beat me to the punch and has already starting making the rounds without me. Alas. We got in a cab to go up to Tabla and when we told the cab driver where we were going, 24th and Madison, he said "are you going to Tabla"? Ok. You gotta love it. I don’t think in all of my years taking cabs, the driver mentioned the restaurant by name. When he dropped us off, he said "have a good meal". I love it. Good karma…right?
You walk in to Tabla, which is architecturally done like no other restaurant. The combination of the Indian colors against the modern look is really nice. The bar downstairs is hopping. I like that you can just come by the bar and eat, no reservations necessary. The main dining room is upstairs, where you do need a reservation but there is an opening in the ceiling which allows the main room to peek downstairs. Creates a more communal feel from upstairs to downstairs.
The service is a little slow. I realize that the staff is trained not to interrupt and to allow the diners to enjoy their meal but at one point, they really need to push us along. We were so enjoying ourselves, we would have ignored the staff all night. In fact we were there from 7 – 1030 which is quite a long time. Also, the staff, probably more like India, is very soft spoken and subdued. It was actually hard to hear our waiter.
The meal starts with a treat from the chef. Last night was a small cup of chestnut soup. A little too rich for me but tasted delicious. They also gave us shrimp chips in different sizes rolled in cumin and other spices served with a tomato chutney. We went through 2 bowls of that and could have probably gone through more. Really good and pretty too. Lots of different colors.
Next up, before our appetizers came, they served us some breads ( my favorite part of Indian food ). One was a crispy bread and the other was a warm sour dough like pita bread that was puffy. When you opened the bread, steamed poured out. This was served with a puree of green apple chutney. Delicious. The bread in particular was a true winner.
I started with the green salad. Simple. Greens put inside a long peeled cucumbers that were shaped into a round circle. Really pretty and clever. The salad had small bits of puffed rice and pomegranate seeds in it with a spicy lime based dressing. Light. It was an interesting combo of flavors.
For my main course, I went with the oxtail. This was absolute delicious. One of the best oxtail dishes I have ever had. Basmatic rice mixed with peanuts, peas and leeks served in a circle about 1/2 inch high and the oxtail over it. The oxtail had been braised and came off the bone easily. The spices were just as it said, sweet and spicy at the same time. Excellent. The breads that they served at the table were just as the last round of breads but only the soft this time. My favorite. I made sure the plate of bread wasn’t sitting next to me or I would have eaten the entire thing by myself.
We bagged dessert. Honestly I was sick last week and still not 100%. They gave us a plate of small treats instead. The lemon tart was delicious and so was the tiny piece of caramel. The chocolate cakes had Indian spices in it which is always an interesting flavor combo.
On another note, the wine was delicious. We had a sauvignon blanc from Coopers Creek Cat’s Phee on a Goosberry Bush (Marlborough, New Zealand) 2005 which was one of the wines they offered by the glass. Screw off top. Getting used to that. I am going to try and get a case of this today. Really good.
It was nice to go back to Tabla. I bet I haven’t been there in five years. Not only is the food good and different but it is a treat to have a New York restaurant survive over the years and be able to return and recall the meals you had there and not have to worry if the place has changed or if it is as good as it was. There is no doubt that Tabla has retained the level of food and service you come to expect from any of Danny Meyers restaurants. And they still give out matches! Next time, I won’t wait so long.