I have been such a bad blogger lately. Between my graduation, internship, and need to become a real person with a real job, I’ve hardly had any time to blog; when I have treated myself to dinner, I haven’t bothered taking pictures because I’ve been more focused on inhaling delicious food. However, a few days ago, as a treat for graduating Magna Cum Laude, my mom and grandma took me to Talula’s Garden for dinner, and I figured that even if my camera was at home, I could take a couple sub-par iPhone photos and put a review together.
Tucked away next to Talula’s Daily and across from Washington Square Park, the restaurant appeared like a surprising little gem as we walked into twinkle lights and heat lamps. The night that we went was a bit chilly, so we unfortunately didn’t get to sit in the lit up garden, but the interior of Talula’s was incredibly warm and beautiful, so it wasn’t too much of a loss. I particularly liked how the restaurant had mismatched tableware and silverware. One, this option saves restaurants money when things break because they don’t have to perfectly match each piece, and two, it gives the restaurant a carefree vibe, even if that isn’t the case. This homey, intimate feel gave me hope that the food would be just as thoughtfully prepared as the interior.
As you all probably know by now, as soon as I sat down, I had the cocktail menu in my hand. My gin-loving self zoned right in on The Dreamer, and it was the first request out of my mouth when the perky Pleasantville waitress came by. This take on the classic gin and tonic included garden herb syrup, and was more complex and sweet than the original, but no less satisfying. It was one of the highlights of the night, and I would definitely get it again if I ever stopped by.
The one thing I had heard about more than anything else at Talula’s was their cheese plate menu. After debating a bit back and forth, we opted for the Not Your Granny’s, which was a plate that featured cheese from California through Spain. Arranged from strongest to lightest, this was a fairly well balanced plate. My favorites included the “Purple Haze,” a goat cheese with a little lavender ‘oomph’ to it and the Marieke Gouda, a powerful Wisconsin cheese that I could happily eat every day. The only cheese on the plate that I didn’t enjoy was the creamy “Harbison,” which was smooth, spoonable, and sweet, but couldn’t hold a candle to a great Brie.
Even though the cheese plate wasn’t all that large, we still took our time finishing it, and then we moved on to our appetizers. Though we weren’t settled on dinner options, we were told we had to order our appetizers and dinner together, so we hurriedly tried to narrow down our options to order everything on the spot. Considering it was a Wednesday night and the place had multiple open tables around us, I’m not sure why we were forced to order everything at once. If this was a restaurant owned by Vetri or Garces, I would probably be more forgiving, but what’s the harm in spreading out a meal over a couple of hours if that’s what the diner wants and there is no one waiting for a table?
There was nothing we could do about it though except suck it up and order everything at once. The appetizer we ended up deciding on was the Marinated Lancaster Tomatoes, which were some of the freshest tomatoes that I’ve ever had. They came with capers and boquerones which added a salty touch to the mild tomatoes. My only complaint was that if you didn’t get all of the elements of the plate onto your fork, the bites could be little bland. Overall, the appetizer was light and perfect to refresh anyone for the spring and summer. This plate was followed by the only course that I could say was completely perfect, the Brioche. Since I am generally a bread hater, I was surprised that I loved the bread course so much, but this fluffy, buttery brioche was perfectly executed and melted right in my mouth. It was everything that good bread should be, and I could have contentedly gouged myself on the brioche for the rest of the night.
After the brioche blew all my bread hating out of the water, it was time for our entrees. The entree I chose was the Seared Local Brook Trout, a fish that I don’t normally get when dining out, but one which drew me in with the promise of tender garlic braised pork cheeks and fragrant herbs. I could have done with a little bit more pork on the dish because that element frequently got lost among everything else, but besides that, the fish was fantastic. It had a wilderness feel to it with all of the fiddlehead ferns, and had a nice balance between meat and veggies. I devoured my trout, so I was really looking forward to trying the Mediterranean Lamb Tabbouleh, which both my mom and grandma jumped on. If there was one word I had to choose to describe this entree, however, it would be ‘gross.’ It was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever eaten. I am a huge lamb fan and it definitely ranks in my top 5 favorite meats, but I wanted to spit my first bite out the second it hit my taste buds. The lamb which is labeled as ‘crisped’ on the menu was borderline soggy on top, and I got no textural crunch with my bites. On top of that, the minty tabbouleh that it was served with was simultaneously too heavy and too soupy in consistency. I’m really not sure why this was the dish our waitress pimped out so much, but it is one that I never want to encounter again.
By the end of our meal, I realized that this Starr restaurant was pleasing to the eye, but not as pleasing to the palate. Some dishes were fresh and delicious, but too many fell flat. I would be willing to give Talula’s another try if a friend wanted to check it out, though it will ever be my first choice. I am a big fan of farm-to-table food in general, even though it makes me question the ethics of American kitchens if having farm fresh food is a way in which one can actually market a restaurant. That being said, there are much better options around the city. If you’re thinking of going to Talula’s, I would recommend passing unless you’re just going for cocktails and cheese, otherwise, you might leave just as unsatisfied as I was.