Friday, June 17, 2011

Talula's Garden

Wade's Take:

This was definitely my most anticipated meal of the year thus far. We've had this reservation for Talula's Garden for months, and it finally came to be.

I walked off the street into the outdoor entrance to Talula's Garden and immediately felt the change in atmosphere. I was instantly reminded of an outdoor summer wedding. People were all well-dressed in their summer best, happy, socializing, nibbling on food. I walked mid-restaurant and stopped, observing and adjusting to the new scene. There were two women standing near me, casually talking. They started a conversation with me like we were old friends, asking me about my work day, how I was doing and other pleasantries. I was starting to think I did in fact know them until they asked me if I had a reservation. They were restaurant managers or owners, not life-long friends of mine! They walked me to an equally perky hostess. I realized right away this wasn't going to be a typical pretentious new restaurant scene - this was going to be different all around.

Our table was outside in a setting that matched the restaurant's name. There was a garden wall around us, plants sprouting from every possible position, and our table and chairs were straight from someone's patio. With a nice warm breeze blowing Dave's hair like he was a super model, it was a great summer scene.  

Now to the cheese plate. Jess and I selected the "In Kind" cheese platter. It was described as four rare and ridiculous cheeses. They were right. Fantastic. My meal could have ended with this plate, and I still would give Talula's Garden a four out of four. Hours later, I'm still thinking about the L'Amuse Gouda and calculating how to get another fix.

I can't pass up sweetbreads on a menu anymore. It's been a fun game to compare and contrast this dish at restaurants over the past few years. Talula's Garden had a nice version, but it didn't come close to trumping the sweetbreads from Fond a few months ago. The sweetbreads were lightly breaded and milder than I'm used to. They were served with an asparagus royale (read: asparagus jello), but my favorite addition was the crisp, fried kale on the side. Potent with salt and actually crunchy, I could have had an entire side of this and been happy.

My entree was a beef and ribs dish, with a foamy brown butter/banyuls and turnips. The beef was succulent and tender, sprinkled with a coarse salt. The rib meat was a cut that was soft enough to crumble apart under my fork, yet still dense. Confusing to the senses. The meat wasn't just infused with the smoky sweet barbecue, it was married. I can't comprehend how they made the foam of brown butter and banyuls (wine/vinegar). It tasted like polenta air. The turnips were neutral, but probably best that way with all the other players on my plate.

I was jealous of Dave's lamb shoulder and very fond of the scallops Jess ordered.

Dessert was a state of euphoria after everything else. Some petite doughnuts were on the table and a soft chocolate dessert with toasted marshmallow and crumbs of smoky bacon. It was bliss.

The meal took time, clocking at two and a half hours. Was it worth it? Absolutely. My one lingering question about Talula's Garden has to do with vegetables. Where were they? Perhaps it's because of the name, but I expected to have more splashes of leafy greens in the dishes for a restaurant that's founded on the concept of farm to table.

Nonetheless, I proclaim Talula's Garden to be four out of four hippy chic garden locales.



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