Review - Tabla (11 Madison Ave , 212 889 0667)
We had a lovely dinner at Tabla over the weekend, taking advantage of the last night of their Sunday wine promotion -- buy 1 bottle, get one free. We were on time, seated upstairs right away, and were impressed with the general ambience. The mosaics, patterned walls and floor are quite impressive -- I had forgotten how visually nice this place is. Tabla is an Indian themed restaurant -- using many spices or cooking styles from the sub continent -- but it is not a traditional Indian restaurant. This means if you go there expecting an upscale version of 6th street's Little India, you'll be disappointed. But if you have an open mind, or are leery of hard core ethnic food, Tabla will be just fine for you.
They started by bringing out small fried rice cakes with a tomato chutney as we perused the wine list, selecting a sparkling wine and a pinot for dinner. Then while sipping on bubbly in their excellent Spiegelau stemware, they brought out a couple of pieces of Indian bread as we made our prix fixe menu ($64) selections. One was a rosemary naan, which was excellent and the other was a corn puuri (possibly fried) which was ok but kind of leaden.
An amuse bouche of an Indiam sambaar/soup with pistachios showed up next and we enjoyed that. It was flavorful and interesting. Now my appetizer arrived - foie gras over a cracker with ginger paste underneath. It was a generous artery clogging piece of Hudson duck liver, with lots of other treats with it. It was great. I also tried my SO's duck samosa which was really tasty too, but obviously not a traditional item.
Now my oxtail over rice pilaf arrived. I think this was glazed in a tamarind sauce with cumin seeds. It was FANTASTIC. The oxtail was juicy, gelatinous, tender and perfectly flavored. It was a generous size too, not one of the small soup sized ones you occassionally see at the market, but a real dinner sized chunk. The rice it was on was mixed with green onions and was a perfect bed for sopping up the meat. I also tried some of the blackened chicken (moist, peppery) and the scallop/shrimps (unusual but good). I am not sure if the oxtail is a usual menu offering.
By now both of our bottles of wine were finished and we moved to coffee and dessert. We had the kulfi, which is usually a mix between custard and ice cream, but here is a super dense gelato kind of confection. Fantastic but very rich. Then we had a mango lassi 3 ways which had different kinds of mango treats (a yogurt shake / lassi, preserves, and a dollop of a sherbet). Their desserts are beautifully presented and included in the $64 prix fixe.
Dinner was great, and very good value for the quality of the food, the exotic ambience and the high level of service Danny Meyer infuses into his staff. I had forgotten how good Tabla was but plan to return more often. It is easy to see why NYCers love this place.