I think we can all agree that the UWS would greatly benefit from a little downtown flavor. God knows the UES has, thanks to recent additions of The East Pole, The Meatball Shop and The Penrose, all breathing hip, new life into an otherwise tired #EEEEEATS scene. It's too bad then the UWS gets stuck with Cafe Tallulah leading the charge, a massive bi-level French/Mediterranean upstairs bistro and downstairs lounge. Clearly, "flavor" is all in the eye of the beholder, and unfortunately, the Cafe Tallulah crew thinks lounge chic is what the UWS needed. Sucks for us.
Remember, in the early 00's, when lounges were all the rage in NYC? There were tons of them, mostly in Chelsea, and all your friends who went to Wisconsin had their birthday parties there. Well, if you're looking to relive the old back room of Pop Burger glory days, take a trip to Cafe Tallulah. Metallic walls, plush red curtains, big artsy photos of models and of course, Ultra Chilled Volume 1 as the soundtrack. Moby into St. Germain into Theivey Corporation, bonafide elevator music we were all guilty of being into thirteen years ago. They even brought in someone from Employees Only to run the cocktail program. Bartender, a Cosmopolitan please.
Despite this restaurant already being on its third chef in ten months of existence, we found the typical bistro fare to be generally better than we expected. It's all hit or miss, and the appetizers are where it's at. One can achieve a solid and reasonably priced meal by pairing a tartare, a salad and the scallop app, which was the best thing we ate. Don't get pasta. The descriptions sound delicious, but the results shouldn't be served as restaurant food. The service was annoying. This is one of those places where, even for a table of five, the servers don't write down the orders. What's the point? They forgot to bring our beers, forgot to bring a salad, and forgot to bring an entree.
While Tallulah feels misguided for 2013, it's still a welcome addition to a hood that's desperate for any kind of of Action at the Bar. This huge space is in close proximity to Central Park, Lincoln Center, and is right in the nexus of everything on the UWS, so it can definitely come in handy.
A nice big helping of greens and veggies. We were very happy with this.
As we alluded to above, the best items on the Tallulah menu were in fact tartares, the tuna being our favorite. A line of tasty raw fish is accompanied by an avocado puree, radish salad, red chili aioli and pickled jalapeño. Mix it all together and you get one tasty bite of spicy tartare.
Again, you can't go wrong with the tartares, especially one this attractive. Mix the egg into the finely chopped raw beef and enjoy. Another winner.
The best single bite we had all night. Small scallops, seared up all kinds of nice and sitting in an absolutely delicious puree of cauliflower and onion with a warm curry vinaigrette.
There's an entire flat bread section of the menu, which can easily be skipped. We tried out the mushroom, goat cheese and truffle oil one, and didn't last longer than a couple of bites.
This is where things started to south, and fast. Under no circumstance should the pasta on the menu at Tallulah be served in a situation where customers have to pay for it. It's a joke, to be honest. It seems like they're making it in house, which, a round of applause is in order for the effort, but the thick, dry, unforgiving spinach mushroom dumplings were simply terrible.
More bad pasta. These gnocchi, with butternut squash, duck confit and sage were also a disaster. The potato dumplings were dry and had zero flavor, and they were surrounded by sad pieces of squash and some shredded, flavorless duck. No thanks.
This classic take on the short rib entree came up a little...short. The meat was completely flavorless.
Of the four entrees we sampled, this was definitely our favorite. It was simple, but well executed. The meat was well cooked, the wild mushroom and butternut squash risotto was on point, and the black truffle parmesan broth made everything stand out.