So, my partner and I gave Urbane a try for the first time Saturday night during Tallahassee's annual "Winter Festival". We canvassed the restaurant out early on in the evening as we had 8:00 p.m. reservations. The bar seemed to be extremely busy but everything else looked calm. We decided to get out of the "fair-themed" crowd and see if we could be seated early around 7:00. Surprisingly, it wasn't a problem as there were many open tables at that time.
The decor is striking. You actually forget you are in downtown Tallahassee. You feel as though you are in a much more sophisticated city. The bench seating along a wall, tables just for two, dark wood floors with carpet mixed in for contrast, nice lighting. Just a total departure from what I've seen here in Tally. I expect this kind of decor in a restaurant such as BB's in Jacksonville, not in a Tallahassee restaurant. There was music playing which seemed to increase in decibels as the patrons' decibel levels climbed. So, if you like loud and energetic, you will love this space.
After the hostess seated us toward the very back near the exit from the kitchen, we were told that our server was Drew and he would be with us shortly. That turned into many minutes later. In an "upscale dining establishment", no matter how busy the restaurant, someone, if not your server, should immediately arrive at your table to, if nothing else, pour you a glass of water. After some time, our intrepid server finally arrived and asked if we would care for anything to drink. Having been parched for some time, I really would have liked some water upon seating but unfortunately at Urbane this seemed to be an afterthought as I had to ask for it after I had placed my drink order. But I digress.
My partner and I sat and chatted for at least 10 minutes if not longer waiting on our cocktails. After my many head turns in the direction of the bar it must have gotten the Manager/Owner's attention because she came over to our table and asked if we were going to have anything to drink. We explained to her that we were waiting on our drinks and she immediately took off to investigate the situation. After the drinks FINALLY arrived (I had a vodka martini with blue-cheese stuffed olives--which are stuffed to order per our server--and my partner had a classic Hendricks martini) we still couldn't toast properly as my partner's Hendricks martini came ungarnished as, per Drew, the bar had run out of cucumber garnish. Umm, WTF? How do you run out of an item that you specifically state garnishes a drink that is listed on the drink menu? So, my partner decided to just have Drew bring him blue cheese stuffed olives to finish off the drink. Now mind you, I mentioned earlier these were stuffed to order...and Drew made this comment again. You know what this means--another 10+ minute wait. After I purposefully put off toasting our evening thinking the olives would be forthcoming, we finally toasted, sans olives in my partner's drink, and carried on. If I remember correctly, the owner came over again and we mentioned the fact we were waiting on the olives but about that time Drew came over with them and said there had been a mix-up at the bar or something. Uh huh. Yeah, that's it. On close inspection, it appeared the bar had run out of toothpicks as well because the olives seemed to be impaled on a broken skewer from the kitchen. *sigh*
So, with all that said and done, we finally got around to looking at the menu for an appetizer. We decided to start with the trio of shrimp cake and fried green tomato with fire roasted corn-black bean salsa and smoked pepper aioli. It was beautifully presented, napolean style, and also the perfect temperature. The shrimp cakes themselves were smoky and spicy and absolutely delicious. Although the fried green tomatoes were delicious, my partner frowned at the breading as it did not adhere to the tomatoes and kept falling off. Otherwise, the dish was perfect.
After that first delight, we ventured further into the small plates menu and decided to get another appetizer--this time the pan seared sea scallops with braised collard greens and texas caviar. What can I say except oh my God! Two scallops, PERFECTLY cook, on a bed of greens and texas "caviar". Divine. Absolutely divine. This made up for slow drink service and breading issue with the first appetizer. Urbane was back in our good graces at this point.
After much thought, we finally decided we should get an entree....but split it. To me, if a restaurant cannot split a plate for a diner, and present it in the way the chef would like to have his meals presented, they are not much of a restaurant. Just my opinion. So, with that, we ordered the steak frites--grilled hanger steak, haricot verts, house frites and roasted shallot red wine jus. While taking our order, Drew, our knowledgeable server, never asked how we wanted the steak cooked. This was interesting to me as I have never been to any restaurant that did not ask this question. However, in Urbane's defense, it wasn't necessary.
The plates arrived to our table some 20-30 minutes later, split and presented perfectly. I could not imagine eating an entire order as there was a considerable amount of food on each plate! The hanger steak was cooked to perfection and already pre-sliced by the kitchen. Must be a presentation thing. Regardless, the steak was cooked rare to medium rare--perfect. The flavor was intense, especially when you sopped your steak in some of the roasted shallot red wine jus. Heavenly. The haricot verts and house frites were also cooked to perfection...both being crunchy and not over- or undercooked. Both plates were clean when our server removed them from the table!
Being stuffed, I debated whether or not to get dessert. But, I'm a dessert guy so I HAD to, if for nothing else, just to have one bite. We decided on the chocolate and caramel brownie martini over vanilla ice cream and a couple of espressos. The brownie was chocolatey and rich with a hint of saltiness. Magnificent. All of the flavors combined very well to provide a suitable ending to our evening.
So how do I rate Urbane? At this early stage of the game, I would say that they still have some things to improve upon. Service being one. You shouldn't have to ask for water. Just a pet peeve of mine. It shouldn't take half an hour to get a properly presented drink from the bar, no matter how busy the bar. You can't use "this is Tallahassee, a college town, this is the best kind of service you are going to get" as an excuse either. Case in point. My partner and I went to Las Vegas for the week of Thanksgiving and ate at Rosemary's Restaurant. It's off the strip in a little strip mall. Most of the servers appeared to be in college or thereabouts. The service was top notch--5 stars in my opinion. If these kids could provide that level of service, any kid can. It's all in the training. So, I guess all of my major complaints would be directed at the front of the house. A little more finesse could be attained with the proper training.
In the back, the kitchen did an outstanding job. The food was superb. Although I can't say it's up there with Liam's or Sage, I would say it's pretty close.
If anyone else has been to Urbane, let's hear your story!