Went to both tonight. I have to say, I was disappointed with Tabla. It's decent little space just north of Burnside on 28th. They have an open kitchen with several seats overlooking it. They serve small plates with almost nothing over $10. Appetizers are even cheaper (they do not provide free bread and butter; there's a $2 charge). Desserts were all $4. Everything is smaller, though, than at normal restaurants.
The menu sounded interesting and my wife and I ordered three entrees and one appetizer. We got the fried eel with lemon rojo mojio, the crispy duck confit with port poached orange and vegetables, the snapper with, I believe, truffle-whipped potatoes, and, an appetizer, the serrano ham wrapped cantaloupe with balsamic reduction.
However, all these items were letdowns to some degree. The eel itself was okay, though rather fishy. They leave the head on and fry it whole so it looks kind of cool if that sort of thing doesn't creep you out. The sauce was decent, made with chiles and preserved lemons, I think, but it lacked refinement. It just wasn't balanced enough and there was little depth to it, like a very interesting ketchup (that sounds probably harsher than it should be taken). It was probably the worst of the dishes.
My favorite was probably the duck. The meat was tender and moist while the skin was crispy. The orange was a nice addition, poached so that the entire piece was edible, a nice mixture of tart and sweet. There was too little of the sauce, however. Duck confit is rich and so adequate sauce to cut through that richness is always appreciated. And since there was only one slice of the orange for the entire leg/thigh piece, that wasn't enough either. It was good. I've had similar dishes that were better, but it was still very good.
The snapper was decent, nothing special about the fish itself, really. But it was decent. The potatoes were good at first, but were over salted (and I often oversalt things on purpose for me) and so became less enjoyable rather quickly. There was this orangish sauce with the dish, only a few dabs, that was pretty good. Not sure of its components. My wife ate most of this dish.
The appetizer was okay, a better idea than it was executed. The thing is, I just made a similar item for my wife two nights ago and it was much better. I wrapped peach wedges in prociutto with parmegianno reggiano and baked them until the ham was crispy, then I served them on baked pita chips and drizzled them with marsala reduction. Tabla's similar item was desperately missing the saltiness of the cheese. Also, the balsamic may have been sweetened because it wasn't tart enough to kick up the flavor of the melon. Like with the peaches, the melon's flavor mellows when cooked and needs something -- lemon, vinegar, wine, chile -- to wake up the flavors. Also I think the ham being rather uncooked on theirs was a poor choice, too. It's such a simple dish and a good idea; they should have done better.
It's only one visit, but compared to, eg, Buckman's Bistro, which is doing a similar sort of thing with similar prices (though slightly larger portions and so a better value), it lacks. Buckman's (is it "Buckman's" or "Buckman"?) flavors were very well refined and the dishes were executed superbly. They exceeded my expectations and the description on the menu. Tabla didn't. Oh, well, I've still got Navarre and Noble Rot nearby to try.
btw, we did have a dessert, an apple tarte tartin. It was okay with a nice addition of goat cheese and toffee. However, I thought the sauce was a little burnt. But it was decent (quite small).
Afterwards we split three scoops from Staccato Gelato. Pretty good flavors. We got hazelnut (it was actually hazelnut-something, but I can't remember what; my wife thinks it was hazelnut-white chocolate), chocolate-orange, and honey-lavendar. All three good flavors, though the chocolate-orange was probably not quite as good as the other two. It had a slight aftertaste and had a little powdery texture almost like you were getting cocoa powder with it. It was still good, though. The hazelnut had something crunchy in it and a good flavor. The honey-lavendar was probably the most interesting of the three. It was primarily honey with a lavendar aroma. Really interesting. None of the flavors were overpoweringly strong, though all were still authoritative. The texture at Staccato isn't as good as Mio, I don't think. It's more like soft-serve comparatively, though still rather smooth. No ice crystals or anything. Just a little too mushy for me. I think they're still good, though, and a very credible alternative to Mio.
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