Just returned from a trip celebrating my father's induction into IU's President's Circle. In looking for a place for Friday night dinner, the wife of the IU Foundation president recommended Restaurant Tallent, which was heartily seconded by my dad's host, the Dean of the School of Journalism.
Located at the corner of Kirkwood and Fairview, Restaurant Tallent is a 2-story affair in a kind of funky building. The interior is hip and smart, with some unusual oil portraits hanging throughout. We were seated upstairs in what was essentially a private room that closed off from the bar area.
As soon as I started reading the menu, I knew I was in for something good provided the cooking was executed as well as the menu read. Definitely New American, with an emphasis on local artisan and organic suppliers, and the meal did not disappoint.
I started with the Frisee Salad, prepared with Red Wine Poached Egg, Crispy Bacon, Point Reyes Bleu Cheese, Roasted Hazlenuts, all in a Violet Mustard Vinaigrette. Fabulous...one of the best versions of this classic bistro dish I have yet to encounter, with the hazlenuts being a wonderfully inspired twist to the classic recipe. Everyone else in our party of 7 enjoyed their first courses as well...the squash soup was superb, as was the green salad with parmesan shaving and challah croutons.
My entrée was a real stunner...Venison Loin and Sausage with Wib's Goat Cheese Grit Cake, Spaghetti Squash, Braised Red Cabbage in a Cranberry Port reduction. Awesome, awesome, awesome...almost as superb as my fave venison ever, prepared by our fave chef the amazing Adam Kreisel from the dearly departed Globe Cafe in our home of Salt Lake City. Feel free to search the Southwest board for my posts about the Globe and Adam's work at Sundance if you want to read about some really mind blowing dishes.
I told the waiter to have the chef cook the loin to his preference, and the medallions came out a lovely rare...plenty tender and flavorful, with only the slightest touch of game in the background. The sausage was lovely too, prepared in classic Italian style with fennel.
The accompaniments and reduction were every bit as stellar as the meat, especially the goat cheese grit cake...wonderully creamy with an al dente texture from the grits, it had just the slightest hint of goat cheese brightness that made for a wonderful layering of flavors.
It was the centerpiece of the dish, with the spaghetti squash mounded on top, and surrounded by the cabbage which provided a bed for the venison. The cranberry port reduction was full of juicy pieces of cranberry, and was generously ladled over the other ingredients.
Just as with the first courses, everyone at the table was oohing and aahing...my sister especially seemed to enjoy the roasted portobello with horseradish mashed potatoes. I got a couple of bites of the 2 different risottos prepared that evening...one a lovely entrée featuring a cornucopia of roasted fall vegetables, the other a traditional saffron version siding the Osso Buco. Both were excellent.
Dessert would prove to be another revelation...my choice was the Coconut Cream Tart with Macadamia Nut Crust and Warm Milk Chocolate Sauce. Stunning...I could eat this one all day long and into the night. A truly fabulous coconut cream, one of the best I've tasted, was layered on an almost shatteringly crisp macadamia crust, with the chocolate sauce served in a small pitcher on the plate. Along with my coffee and a nice glass of sherry, it was a perfect end note to a really impressive meal.
Service was top notch...a total team effort with four servers entering the room to serve the dishes to the table at the same time. Used plates and silver were cleared, and water glasses refilled in a totally seamless and not particulary noticeable manner, especially noteworthy given the confines of the private room. This is truly an upper tier operation, one that is the equal of some of our favorite restaurants anywhere. Area residents should be both thrilled and proud to have such a place in a non-metropolitan area.
Restaurant Tallent is a totally Tallent family affair, open a year next month. The head chef and sous chef are brothers, and the general manager/pastry chef is the head chef's wife. The sous chef came to our room at our request (his brother was out of the restaurant at a private party), and we greeted him with a nice round of well-deserved applause.
The only downside to the whole evening was my wife not being able to join us as she was feeling a bit under the weather. Fortunately we have a second cousin graduating (hopefully!) from IU next year, so we will have an excuse to visit Restaurant Tallent again. I have every intention of booking the trip for at least a day or two longer than necessary so I can visit the restaurant at least a couple of times...this is one restaurant I want to experience as much as I possibly can, and you should too.