Before going to a matinee at Intar Theater around the corner, we had brunch today at Taboon (10th Ave. and 52nd). I was pretty happy with the food there (although I think I ordered well, whereas my companions had worse luck).
We'd made a reservation for 1 PM, and a good thing too--the place was packed and people were waiting at the bar for tables until almost 2:00. The space is very pleasant, especially on a sunny day like today when the big windows let in very nice light. It's not too loud even when completely full, and there's decent space between tables.
I'd heard negative comments about the service at Taboon, and they're half right. We were seated right away, but our waiter took forever to get menus to us. Thereafter, every aspect of his interaction with us was leisurely, to put it mildly. (Since we had arrived a bit early and had plenty of time to make our 3 PM show, we weren't terribly annoyed or inconvenienced, but the slowness was sufficient to provoke a lot of comments from us.) At the same time, we did notice that pretty much every other table around us was getting excellent and prompt service. It appeared that we'd drawn the short straw in waiter selection. Having waited tables for many years myself, I can also imagine that we could have been victims of the "one bad table" phenomenon whereby an overburdened server gives fine service to five out of six tables but seriously shortchanges the sixth (i.e. us). Anyway, it wasn't a dealbreaker for us, and others shouldn't be too worried. At least they honored our reservation!
To the food: we ordered the brioche basket, a starter of salt-cured roe, two Caesar salads, and the yogurt-granola dish. We also received a small loaf of hot rosemary bread, which was a nice touch and quite tasty, with a good herb flavor and a sprinkling of sea salt. The brioche basket, more like a selection of fresh breads that included a whole grain with fruits and things like chocolate croissants, was very good also, if not write-home quality. It was certainly a cut above the usual sticky-bun type fare that one gets at brunch.
One disappointment was that the salt-cured roe never showed up on the table at all. Our sluggish waiter remarked at one point that it was missing, but then never came to deliver it. Five or ten minutes later, we asked for it from another waiter (who appeared to be much more on the ball than ours), and he told us that they'd probably run out of it. He went to the kitchen to check and came back to confirm that fact. About ten minutes after this, our own waiter finally reappeared to announce that the roe had been "over-salted" and they weren't serving it. Who knows what the real story was, but the upshot is that I can't report on the roe.
The Caesar salads were acceptable to my companions but were, in my opinion, pretty chintzy in size--the dried lamb accompaniment was not generous, either. I never order these salads because they usually tend to be drowned in dressing, and this occasion seemed no different.
I can report that my granola-yogurt was everything it should have been. This consisted of a substantial bowl of plain yogurt, several handfuls of very good granola, strawberries and blackberries, honey, and poppy seeds. (It really hit the spot after a night of over-indulgence on tapas and sangria the previous evening.)
I did enjoy my meal at Taboon and I'd go back, with a careful eye to the identity of my server and my menu choices. The shakshooka (stewed tomatoes and peppers served with eggs, sausage, or seafood) appeared to be a very popular dish, and I'd like to try it next time.
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