Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Newport, RI: Tallulah on Thames

For our next, and what we’d presumed to be our last, dinner in Newport, Robbie, C&C and I decided to class it up a little bit.  We secured a late reservation at Tallulah onThames, just a few blocks down from where we’d dined the nightbefore.  The space was small but welcoming; dim, but not dark. Dining out as frequently as I do in New York, I kind of forget what it’s like to have space between my table and others.  Like actual, I don’t even have to pretend I can’t hear those two girls talking about their relationships even though I can hear every awkward word, space.  Not only was the space plentiful, but it was airy, simply outfitted and quite lovely. 

Since all of the entrees hovered in the mid-thirties range, we opted for the prix fixe menu, which allowed us to select an appetizer, entrée and dessert from the menu for $50, with supplemental charges for certain dishes. 

Botanica, 2009 Chenin Blanc
 We selected a lovely, very interesting bottle of South African Chenin Blanc – the waitress was apparently a very big fan and doesn’t get asked about it frequently, so she insisted we give it a try.  She did not lead us astray; it was awesome.  I was at first thrown off by the minerality of it, but was hugely converted after a few sips, and we drank far too much of it. 

Tallulah espouses the same farm-to-table sentiment that’s popped up nearly everywhere these days.  Which is not to say I don’t appreciate the movement – I love sitting down with confidence that my meal did not originate in a factory. 

Butter.  Obvs.

I tend to place a disproportionate weight on bread and butter when deciding whether I like a restaurant.  I prefer butter to olive oil (that vegan thing never stood a chance), and I think you can tell a lot about how seriously a restaurant treats its food by the butter – it should be room temperature, maybe on the cool side of room temperature, but it should never be cold, since it should spread easily. And I could tell from this butter that we were in for a good meal.  Sprinkled with fleur de sel, micro greens, and edible flowers, it was just fabulous.  This butter was, ironically, my jam. 

But bread and butter alone do not, unfortunately, a proper meal make.  Since this meal happened over a month ago and I neglected to take a picture of the menu, I am very fuzzy on what was actually consumed, but suffice it to say that everything was quite delicious.  I have a general idea, though, and some pathetic pictures, so here goes anyway.

Baby greens with apples, cheese and other stuff

I started with a baby greens salad with Apples, shallots and blue cheese.  Despite all the distraction in the plating, at its essence this salad was simple, balanced, and fresh. All of the flavors played off of one another and the freshness of the mache really shone through.  

Endives, frisee and beets beets beets
CF started with the other salad option, endives and frisee with beets.  She seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.  
Appetizer win
Robbie and CH went for the broccoli and cheddar veloute.  I am not a fan of cream-based soups, and thinking the veloute would be, if not, cream-based, quite heavy, I opted for the salad, and the second Rob's soup was poured I had serious food envy.  It was awesome.  The cheddar somehow seemed to contribute only flavor, giving a little bit of an edge to what would be an otherwise run-of-the-mill broccoli soup, but did not weigh down the veloute at all.  Rob and CH won the appetizer course.

For the mains, I had been considering the fluke but was told they'd run out.  So I opted instead for the cod, which was a wonderful fallback.  Served with brandade, olives, and a piquillo pepper puree, the fish was cooked fantastically - crispy skin veiling perfectly moist flesh.  Say what you will, call me gross even, but I love crispy fish skin, and I don't give a fuck.  

Robbie also went with the cod.  Typically, I'd be secretly (and, yes, selfishly) resentful that he hadn't gone with something different so that I could pick from his plate, but since the four of us had been eating from each other's plates all weekend, I knew I'd have a chance to taste a few different things.  
Risotto avec l'arc de courge musquée
CF went with the seasonal squash risotto, which was good but not mind-blowing, and plated far too preciously for my taste.

CH went for something far heartier - steak (I believe it was flank steak, perhaps?) cooked into a rich sauce.  Piled atop some seriously delicious fresh egg pappardelle, it was the lovechild of italian ragu and beef bourguignon.  I actually really liked the plating of this dish, and the portion was definitely appreciated more by the stomach than the eyes.

Ganache et al
Onto dessert we went.  Since it was Robbie's birthday the following week, the staff graciously put a candle in his dessert.  I don't recall what this dessert was, but I think it was a chocolate ganache with some other business going on.  It was fine, but not remarkable. 

Panna cotta spiked with awesome
What was, remarkable, however, was my coffee caramel panna cotta, with hazlenut crunch and "sweet milk espuma." This was just solid all around.  The delicious little toffee pieces, the little crunchies, reminiscent of the middle layer of the Carvel cakes of my youth, the sweet milk espuma (just call it foam, dude) - all delicious, and the bitterness of the coffee prevented all the sweet from creeping too close to saccharine.

The prices at Tallulah seem rather out of line with the rest of Newport.  The meal was by far our most expensive of the weekend, and from what I understand, the $50 prix fixe jumps significantly during the busy summer months.  While I think the artiness of the plating could have been dialed back a few notches, it did not obscure the fact that the food we were eating was pretty damn great.  

464 Thames St
Newport, RI
(401) 849-2433


Shanelé said...

wow!! It's all so pretty...almost too pretty to eat! Tell me you're not working this weekend!?

Shelby said...

Who knows these days! my fingers are crossed that I'm not.