My friend Carlota and I stopped at Danny Meyer's Tabla restaurant this week. You have ONE WEEK to go here before it closes for good, and you should absolutely stop in for a fantastic meal.
We opted for the prix fixe, because as delicious as it is, the menu is not cheap. Even for lunch, entrées were close to 30 dollars (part of the reason it's closing, ya think?), so the $26 prix fixe of 3 courses seemed like a great deal.
After sampling it both via FreshDirect.com and now in person, I think it's definitely worth a splurge. Floyd Cardoz, the Executive Chef, takes Indian spices, methods, and more, and infuses them into impressively layered, interesting, pause-worthy food worth appreciating.
To start, we shared their guacamole with lotus chips. This was stellar--the guacamole was remarkably fresh and dusted with a layer of cumin that was so simple and yet changed the entire dish. You may remember how I swooned over Zapotec's cumin sour cream last year in Martha's Vineyard... I may have to start putting this in everything!
We also splurged on cocktails. Long story short, both were liquid perfection!
I opted for the Kachumber Cooler with gin, cucumber, cilantro, and green chiles. Often (like at Cookshop), these cocktails are unbalanced, and one item, usually the spicy chilies, will overwhelm the drink. Not this time...the cucumber and the gin were delightful, and the green chilies gave just the right amount of heat. I LOVED this cocktail.
Carlota ordered the tamarind margarita. Tamarind can often be a bit too sour for me, but this was just as spot-on perfect as my Cooler. Such amazing balance and a wonderful depth of flavors!
Our serene and warm server also brought out an impressive rosemary naan--fluffy, crisp just a bit on the underside--YUM. I'm often put off by rosemary, finding it a bit to pine-tree like, but I really liked this!
For my prix fixe app I ordered the Pumpkin Rasam, a soup with toasted coconut, lentils, cilantro, and apparently also tamarind. It was lighter than I expected. It was good, it just wasn't as fantastic as everything we'd tasted so far.
Carlota ordered the wild mushroom fricasee, with semolina polenta gently cooked in a coconut milk broth. This was outstanding. Outstaaaaanding. And that's coming not just from her, but from me, the girl who's still slightly freaked out to eat a known fungus. We actually kept this on the table throughout the meal, sneaking little bits and pieces of it until it was almost gone.
My main dish was the Rawa Crisped Skate. It came with a spicy-sour curry sauce and basmati rice pilaf. This was light years ahead of the skate I'd sampled weeks ago at Artisanal. Carlota's not a fan of skate, so she passed on tasting it. More for me! It was so perfectly cooked--tender and moist and just, well, marvelous.
Carlota's dish, however, was maybe even a smidge more spectacular. Her curry leaf-marinated flank steak may have been one of the best steaks I've ever had in my life. The preparation was flawless, the flavor was lusciously layered, and the portion was absolutely perfect. The gingered greens were fantastic as well, and while I enjoyed the flavor of the mustardy mashed potatoes, Carlota thought they were bland. I agree they needed a little something more, but in no way was this a bad dish!
Dessert comes with the prix fixe, so we kinda HAD to order it, amirite? My choices were the vanilla bean kulfi or the quince shortbread, and our awesome server, Rachel, suggested I go with her favorite, the quince shortbread. It was a jaggery biscuit with sliced quince fruit, lemon mascarpone, and diced pistachios. The cake was light and tasty, though I didn't really taste much lemon in the mascarpone, moreso in the cake.
Carlota had the better dessert by far....mango kulfi (Indian-style ice cream) atop a bed of soft brown butter crumble (brown sugar + butter + indescribable tastebud joy), hazelnuts, and spiced caramel sauce. We knew a good 2 spoonfuls in that our bellies were at capacity, but we did. not. care. This was too good NOT to finish. I even loved the teeny-tiny meringues!
One of the best parts of our experience was the great service we got from Rachel. She was just lovely--calm, welcoming, friendly, and didn't rush us. She didn't freak out (unlike Bocca) when I used my AWESOME $25 gift certificate from Fresh Direct, either.
We asked her what's next for her, and she said she'll probably go to another Danny Meyer restaurant. I've read that they delayed the closing as long as possible to help the staff find new jobs, and I appreciate that, especially as a person who found themselves facing imminent layoffs more than once!
This place is definitely a splurge, but SO worth it. If you have any time between now and December 30th, I highly recommend you stop in, even if just for a cocktail and dessert. And by 'dessert,' I mean that killer mango kulfi.
11 Madison Avenue
NY, NY 10010