Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Excursion! Tallulah

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my fun friend Jen for bringing me to Tallulah last night. It was, hands down, the best meal I've had in the past month. That's not saying much, since I haven't been dining out often, but even if I had been to a different restaurant every day, last night's dinner would be near the top of my fantastic list.

The Tallulah space has an interesting appeal. It's nice without being prissy. Nearly everything is black or white, including the white vinyl tablecloths. Nothing can make you revert to the level of a messy toddler quite like a tablecloth that can be hosed down efficiently!

To start, Jen and I split crab and andouille fritters. They were perfectly crisp outside, soft and delicate inside. They were drizzled with a spicy remoulade and served on a bed of fresh mesclan greens.

Deciding on an entree was a challenge. The menu is loaded with goodies including seared duck breast, sweetbreads, and rabbit confit. Knowing that these items would be available at least until the season turns, I ordered the chef's special; pan roasted halibut with crab salad and pancetta, served atop a deliciously sauced mound of soft strawberries and fava beans. Our server told us it was an homage to the lovely weather we had yesterday, and that's exactly how it tasted. I hesitated at the thought of strawberries at this time of year, but they ended up being just sweet enough to pair with the balsamic reduction that glazed them. The fava beans were freshly shucked and toothy. It was actually fun to bite into them. Tiny cubes of pancetta toned down the overall sweetness and added a rich flavor to the beautifully brown-crusted halibut. The crab salad on top was good, but the rest of the dish would have been just as excellent without it.

Jen took our server's suggestion and ordered pan fried skate wing with oxtails and brussels sprouts. The veg was cooked tender-crisp and seasoned with sweet, acidic blood orange. The thin fish filet tasted clean and simple, a complete opposite of the meaty threads of robust oxtail. This dish was all about tying together opposite flavors in a way that accentuates the uniqueness of each one.

We split a helping of pistachio cheesecake for dessert. It was creamy and delicious in its traditional graham cracker crust. Tart cherry compote cut through the sweetness. Too bad the lights were turned down so low. I bet the crimson cherries on the pale green cake was gorgeous.

I complemented Chef Graves on our way out, and told him how happy I was that he'd found a new home at Tallulah. He seemed bashful, almost embarrassed of his talents. I'm a believer, and I am already looking forward to a return visit. Don't forget that Tuesday is BYOW (bring your own wine - leave the beer and spirits at home) night, and an outdoor patio will be open this summer. Sounds like a perfect summer evening waiting to happen.


Anonymous said...

Wow! That sounds pretty tasty, but what did you two do for wine? Did you pair it with one of those "I don't know what the hell it is, or even where the hell it came from, but it's in my fridge" wines?

Nif said...

Beth brought the white was tasty. Beth forgot to mention that is NO corkage fee! I'll go back when the warm weather embraces Chicago.

Nice to see you, Beth.

PS I told the