A few months back, I was thinking of places to go for the GF and my anniversary. After passing on the usual suspects, I couldn't believe that we still had not been to Talula's Garden. This was quickly remedied with a reservation at the enduring (and endearing!) Washington Square West hotspot.
Enchanting and endearing indeed. How gorgeous is the outdoor seating? Pennsylvania native Aimee Olexy gave life to Talula's first iteration in the form of a 12-person BYOB tasting in Chester County with Talula's Garden. Reservations were booked for up to 12 months and at one point, Talula's Table was called the "toughest table in America."
Ultimately though, Olexy's prior working experience with Stephen Starr led her to open up Talula's Garden with the venerable restaurateur in 2011.
The Artist [$11]
Prosecco, grapefruit, St. Germain
The GF started off the night with a light sparkler. Grapefruit definitely complements effervescence well whether it's a paloma or this subtly sweet tipple.
The Treehugger [$14]
Bourbon, maple and black walnut bitters
Black walnut bitters seem to be all the rage these days with the city's mixologists. And with good reason - I enjoyed what was essentially Talula's take on a maple manhattan - sweet with substantive body from the bourbon.
We were presented with a nice amuse of goat's milk cheese and raspberry jam atop a crisp flatbread. Tangy and sweet, there was nothing wrong with this!
One of the best bites of the night wasn't anything we had even ordered. The house-baked brioche was buttery and warm. It was topped with a pat of maple cayenne butter, which brought a nice spicy kick on the finish - right to the back of the throat! I savored each bite slowly and it took all I had not to ask for another!
Fresh Baked Ligurian 'Foccacia di Recco' [$16]
Fennel jam, whipped ricotta, juicy blistered grapes, buffalo taleggio, truffle honey
A must order in my mind is the Ligurian Foccacia di Recco, which often makes an appearance on Talula's seasonal menu. We enjoyed one topped with fennel jam, whipped ricotta, and buffalo taleggio. Basically think of a crispy, buttery, and cheesy tart, with the truffle honey complementing the sweet blistered grapes nicely.
Brown Butter Glazed Potato Gnocchi [$16]
Slow-roasted pulled capon, local mushrooms, dandelion-sage pistou
The gnocchi were well-made, with the fattened capon adding richness to the broth and each bite. The pistou added a nice balance to each bite with fresh basil and garlic notes. A shave of parm imparted a last hit of salt that brought out all of the individual flavors.
Parmesan-meyer lemon-parsnip nage, brussels, bacon bits, tarragon hazelnut vinaigrette
The acidity of the lemon parsnip broth complemented the sweet crab well, with the bacon bits providing some salt and the brussel leaves supporting each bite with some backbone. The bow-ties were well-made and perfectly al dente.
Pan-Fried Rainbow Trout [$28]
Griddled russet potato cake, bacon, broccoli, pickled cipollini onion, horseradish creme
The GF's crisply fried trout was nicely seasoned. I loved the acidity of the pickled onions and there was nothing wrong with the latke - crisp, onion-laden, and with nice heft to balance out the lightness of the fish and veggies.
Berkshire Pork Belly [$29]
Pan-roasted local orchard apples, five spice apple butter, pickled radish, fresh ginger salad
My pork belly was a stunner. Unctuous and fatty, there was nothing unabashed about this dish. The ginger salad and pickled radish provided a nice countervailing acidity to the heft of the pork, with the roasted apples and five spice apple butter adding sweetness that always complement pork so well.
Buttery Georgia Grits [$8]
Nora Mills white corn grits, caramel sea salt compound butter
While this dish could have used a touch more salt, the white corn grits had great texture and was surprisingly subtly sweet from the caramel compound butter.
Sweet & Spicy Sugar Beets [$8]
Honey cardamom vinaigrette, mint, pickled pepper and cumin yogurt
On the other hand, the sweet and spicy sugar beets were a winner in my book. Sweet, light, with great texture studded throughout each bite, these were addictively delicious.
Kentucky 'Pecan Pie' Ice Cream Sundae [$11]
Bourbon-pecan ice cream, gooey pie crust, bourbon sauce
At this point, we were stuffed and had plenty of leftovers. But you have to get dessert, right? While the pie crust wasn't as gooey as I thought it would be, the bourbon-pecan ice cream was the stuff dreams are made of!
Salted Caramel Chocolates
The kitchen also graciously sent out some chocolate sea-salt caramels to end our meal - always an appreciated gesture typical of any Starr Restaurant production.
Talula's is definitely a beacon of gustatory delights. In fact, days later, I was thinking about a few of those dishes. The brioche, the foccacia tart, and the pork belly? Unreal. Highly recommend Talula's for a proper date night - I know I'll be back soon!