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Tabla/The Bread Bar at Tabla


glenn
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Here's an incredibly crappy, but just barely legible, picture of tonights menu:

gallery_61507_6225_127284.jpg

Apparently these menu's change every week.

The food was good, kind of like Bread Bar food, but prepared upstairs with an even bolder take. This wasn't French, it was unapologetically Indian.

We went a little crazy and ordered 9 things, spending a few dollars more between the 2 of us than the regular tabla menu costs for 1. This really puts the wazwan menu (which we tried and wrote about above a couple of months back) from downstairs to shame. The Tabla 10 is a great menu, but probably requires you to have an adventurous palate. Picking through the bones/cartilage of a striped bass collar almost reminded me of eating offal, but.. fish offal. Strong flavor, probably not for everyone, but very interesting in my eyes. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the potato stuffed sourdough naan, it was exceptional. There were a few letdowns, most notably the chicken meatballs.

I also understand now that they have separate sections upstairs. The regular, white table cloth main dining room is still 100% there. Off to the left side (when you walk up the stairs) is the elevated section where they host Tabla 10 guests. Table tops are not white cloth, everything is more playful. Chez Cardoz stopped by to chat with a table, Ruth Reichl stopped in with a couple of friends a bit later. Not every table was taken, a few 2 tops went empty by the time we left, although I'm not sure why. For the same money we've eaten far less interesting food, I can honestly say I would like to go back again next week.

Edited by sickchangeup (log)
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Well, the menu changing might render this moot, not sure.

But of the stuff I'd eat again, I'd list the spring onion "pakoras" (pakora being your standard dense fritter, the quotes here denoting the light fritter batter applied to each whole spring onion stalk, then fried almost tempura style) which had a really good classic pakora spice to them, although not a generous portion for $7 (could just be my ignorance of the cost of spring onions right now?). The Duck Neck Sausage paired nicely with the Orange Chutney, and $6 is a good price for the 3 slices. The shrimp are served whole, solo, can be eaten shell on, very juicy and are ridiculously overloaded with black pepper. Then of course the breads, which are all great, fresh baked, filling, but also regularly available at Bread Bar downstairs.

The "mains" are where the dishes get a little more complex, but it kind of goes with your tastes more than anything. Striped Bass Collars and Chicken Livers are No Reservations territory, Tandoori Chicken Wings are not. I would just pick by protein, nothing was very (hot) spicy and ultimately it's near impossible to glean what a dish is gonna be like from it's menu description anyways.

The other nice thing was a $5 dessert option, which I appreciated. Two chocolate ice-cream, cookie dough studded, chocolate shell covered "lollipops" which hit the spot.

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Checked out Tabla 10 tonight. I think it fits well within the restaurant's greater concept. This is a somewhat more interesting take on Indian food that is still generally recognizable as Indian. This stands in contrast to the fare in the main dining room.

I've been to Tabla at least four times, counting visits to both floors, but never filed a full report. Oops. I've always liked the place, but never really find myself craving the food or rushing back.

The menu has changed a bit since last week. I like how the kitchen is putting out new stuff. The kulcha was stuffed with spring onion and garlic. There was no duck neck sausage; a disappointment for me. No grilled mushrooms but now large tandoori chicken drumsticks at $5/piece.

Here's a picture of this week's menu. Lots of carryovers, but some new dishes like I mentioned. Sorry for cutting out the prices. My b.

gallery_28496_6396_471325.jpg

All in all I enjoyed the food, though some items were a bit small. The chat was a good rendition if not particularly heavily spiced, but I've never been totally in love with stewed Indian vegetables so I'm not the best judge.

The meats and curries are, to me, where the action is. The pork belly vinadaloo was really tasty, I wish there just a bit more belly. Only one smallish piece in the bowl. Shrimp is heavy on the black pepper, but I liked the preparation. Short ribs had a really nice cinnamon-type spice thing going on even if the meat itself was a bit stringy. The chicken legs were rather large and meaty. The tandoori preparation here isn't your typical heavy yogurt marinade but something much lighter and tangier. Very tender, almost to the point of being undercooked, and wholly enjoyable. Water pickles served as a nice palate cleanser but we could've easily gone without them. White rice would've been nice but $4 for a rather small bowl seemed a bit high.

I thought the sea bass collar was a bit disappointing. Not bad at all, and I certainly didn't mind picking through the flesh, just a bit bland. If I have one complaint about the savory cooking it's that it's effectively lacking in any spiciness. I know this isn't really Tabla's domain, but many of the curries would've been much more full and memorable with a bit of heat.

Desserts weren't really a high point, but they were appreciated. There was a duo of mini banana cream pies that many would consider a throwaway but were actually quite tasty and had a certain vintage appeal. We also ordered the kulfi trio off the Bread Bar menu and enjoyed that. Solid, especially the pistachio, if not particularly complex.

Service was very solicitous, even if we only saw our headwaiter infrequently.

All in, exactly $50/person including a cocktail and two beers after tax and tip. Would definitely go back, though Wednesday is kind of an awkward night. Also worth noting that the main dining room was, comparatively speaking, significantly more full than Tabla 10.

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If I have one complaint about the savory cooking it's that it's effectively lacking in any spiciness.  I know this isn't really Tabla's domain, but many of the curries would've been much more full and memorable with a bit of heat.

It really is tame, the stuffed sourdough listed "cayenne" as an ingredient and I expected my mouth to catch fire. It barely registered, although was delicious. And if something called "vindaloo" doesn't sear your lips and throat, then it shouldn't be called that.

Maybe they would honor any requests to make the food really spicy?

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  • 6 months later...

Grub Street has the story that Bread Bar at Tabla is merging with the main dining room. Both spaces will be called Tabla, but the posted menu is actually more like the Bread Bar menu. Until now, Tabla had a $59 prix fixe, whereas the Bread Bar had a carte with optional tasting menus. The latter is the format the new Tabla has adopted.

On a recent visit, the formal dining room was nearly empty on a Friday evening, while the Bread Bar was packed. In Times Like These, no doubt the informal à la carte format was proving far more popular. It's an interesting contrast to the adjoining Eleven Madison Park, which has become increasingly more formal over the last couple of years, and they certainly haven't suffered for it.

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That Danny Meyer is one smart guy. :cool:

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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It's probably a good business decision. I know with respect to my own dining-out habits, in the past several years I have happily paid to dine at Bread Bar on many, many occasions but haven't done Tabla upstairs except for by-invitation events. And I'm someone who thinks Floyd Cardoz's food is great. It's just that Tabla upstairs wasn't a place I chose, given all the competing choices, for a fine-dining meal. Now, with the spaces integrated, I'll have more interest in the whole restaurant.

At the same time, I have two regrets: 1- The new menu lacks the best dish in the history of Bread Bar, the pulled-lamb naanini; and 2- I worry that the restaurant won't be able to hold on to a New York Times three-star ranking upon re-review with this new menu.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I worry that the restaurant won't be able to hold on to a New York Times three-star ranking upon re-review with this new menu.

I suspect Danny Meyer realizes that, but the old three-star ranking it had clearly wasn't filling the dining room. I wonder how many people even realize that Tabla is a three-star restaurant, aside from people like us who follow these things closely. It's the only one of Danny Meyer's fine-dining restaurants that Frank Bruni did not re-review, and I do not recall even a mention in passing. An enthusiastic two-star re-review (which appears to be what this restaurant is now designed to get) would probably do more for the restaurant than the old three-star review that most people don't even know exists.

(Rant: The list of three-star restaurants linked from the NYT dining page includes only those that Frank Bruni visited, not those awarded three stars by prior critics, such as Tabla, Gotham Bar & Grill, Aquavit, La Grenouille, and Craft.)

Edited by oakapple (log)
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  • 11 months later...

Wow, thats sad. I just ate there on Tuesday after Eataly was full. The restaurant was probably at 80% capacity and the food was spot on.

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

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I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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Wow, thats sad. I just ate there on Tuesday after Eataly was full. The restaurant was probably at 80% capacity and the food was spot on.

If it was 80 percent full on a Tuesday, and if that was at all typical, then I would guess that check size was the problem, not popularity. It used to have an expensive (by Indian food standards) prix fixe upstairs. They replaced that with what amounts to the old Bread Bar menu, where it's possible to order MUCH less expensively.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Fwiw, Tabla is hosting some pretty amazing-sounding events (including a Diwali celebration) in the next couple of months...you can get on the e-mail list via the website.

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Whatever the economics behind the closing -- many a restaurant with less success than Tabla has stayed open -- it must be said that Tabla is closing in style. No BS sign that they're renovating, followed by silence. No disconnected phone. Plenty of notice. No guessing. Everything is above-board and transparent in keeping with the soigne approach of the Union Square Hospitality Group. This is the first restaurant Danny Meyer has had to close in 25 years of doing business, and he is closing as well as he opens.

I'm very sad to see Tabla go because it was a huge favorite for many years, the site of several of our son's birthday dinners, and a place where I thought the value proposition was spot on. But just as I can't really explain Tabla's closing, I can't really explain why I haven't been going in the past year or so. Yes, I've been busy, distracted by school, real-estate and family-health issues. But I've been eating, just not there of late. It may have nothing to do with the restaurant, just changing consumer behavior. Maybe the answer is simply that Tabla ran through its life cycle and now, like a beloved pillar of the community at the end of a long and distinguished career, is making a graceful exit.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 2 weeks later...

This just in from Tabla:

FAREWELL EVENTS AT TABLA

Diwali Celebration – Monday, Nov. 8 at 7 PM

In celebration of the traditional Diwali holiday, the “festival of lights,” Tabla will host a special family style dinner including goat served four ways. A much loved holiday in India and Nepal, Diwali celebrates good over evil, reaffirmations of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a successful harvest. Price per person is $135 with wine, plus tax and gratuity.

For reservations: 212-889-0667.

Madison Square Park Conservancy Fall Benefit – Monday, Nov. 15th at 6 PM

Madison Square Park supporters, friends and trustees will gather at the 8th Annual Fall Benefit at Tabla to raise funds for Madison Square Park’s maintenance and programming. This intimate gathering will feature a conversation with NBC’s Lester Holt and Maria Bartiromo. Since Tabla opened 12 years ago, supporting our beautiful Madison Square Park has been an incredibly important cause for us and this benefit will celebrate the restaurant and its place in the neighborhood’s history. Individual tickets are $2,000; table packages are also available.

To purchase, please contact Lizzie Honan at 212-538-9310, or ehonan@madisonsquarepark.org.

Gilt City Brooklyn Beer Dinner – Wednesday, Nov. 17th at 6:30 PM

Join Chef Floyd and Brooklyn Brewery’s renowned brewmaster Garrett Oliver for a special four-course beer-pairing dinner. Price per person is $125 plus tax and gratuity.

Tickets will be sold exclusively through Gilt City beginning Thursday, November 4th: www.giltcity.com/newyork.

Tabla’s Fourth New Indian Dinner – Monday, Nov. 29th at 6 PM

Over the years, Tabla has hosted several New Indian Dinners, where we’ve invited some of the country’s leading chefs to offer their interpretation of our pioneering cuisine. In this, our final year, we’re extremely proud to host our Fourth New Indian dinner with an incredible line-up of renowned chefs, including Andrew Carmellini, Gabrielle Hamilton, Madhur Jaffrey, Francois Payard and Michael White. The event will include a five-course dinner and cocktail reception and will benefit Pratham USA, India’s leading organization advocating for childhood education and literacy. Price per person is $300 plus tax and gratuity.

For reservations, please call 212-889-0667, or email info@tablany.com.

Cooking Class – Saturday, Dec. 4th at 10 AM

Don’t miss Chef Floyd’s final cooking class at Tabla, featuring the restaurant’s greatest hits: crab cakes, oxtail and more! Price per person is $150 plus tax. Space is limited and available on a first-come, first-reserved basis.

For reservations: 212-889-0667.

Alumni Chef Dinner – Tuesday, Dec. 7th, 6:30 PM

Tabla has served as a training ground for a remarkable number of our industry’s brightest talents. For one night, Chef Floyd has invited Tabla’s illustrious alumni back into the kitchen to cook one last meal together. This multi-course dinner will be prepared by chefs Ben Pollinger (Oceana), Dan Kluger (ABC Kitchen), Eric “Bubba” Gabrynowicz (Restaurant North), Jenn Giblin (Blue Smoke), and Mohan Ismail (RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen). Price per person is $175 with wine pairings, plus tax and gratuity. We hope you will join us in celebrating Tabla’s history.

For reservations: 212-889-0667.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Story in Crain's: How to Close a Restaurant.

“It's not something I necessarily want to become an expert in,” Mr. Meyer says, laughing. “But the measure of our company should not just be about how we open restaurants. We need to distinguish ourselves by how we close a place.”

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Story in Crain's: How to Close a Restaurant.

“It's not something I necessarily want to become an expert in,” Mr. Meyer says, laughing. “But the measure of our company should not just be about how we open restaurants. We need to distinguish ourselves by how we close a place.”

Part of this is "Danny being Danny." The other part is: he has levers at his disposal that other restauranteurs necessarily wouldn't. He has a fairly large, profitable restaurant empire that can absorb many of the employees, can keep Floyd Cardoz on payroll without a kitchen, and can subsidize a money-losing operation. And Tabla built up a large reserve of fans over its 10-year run who will make a point of going back one last time.

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  • 4 months later...

Perhaps a happy ending here. This just in from USHG:

March 8, 2011, New York City -- Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group announced plans today for its forthcoming new fine dining restaurant – its first since Maialino – which will open in Battery Park City towards the end of 2011. North End Grill will be a new American eatery and bar featuring refined grill cooking with an emphasis on seafood. The restaurant will be located at the northwest corner of North End Avenue and Murray Street.

In what is sure to be stirring news in the culinary world (as well as for downtown residents and business people), Floyd Cardoz, the much loved and critically-acclaimed founding executive chef/partner of Tabla, will serve as the restaurant’s executive chef/partner. North End Grill will be designed by Bentel & Bentel, the celebrated architecture firm whose work has distinguished several of USHG’s most popular restaurants including Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, The Modern, and Blue Smoke.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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