Monday, June 10, 2013

Tashan Review

Tashan has always been on my radar. The fact that they offer a tasting menu filled with contemporary takes on Indian cuisine only piqued my interest. The story behind the restaurateur and former I-banker, Munish Narula, was even more inspiring. And with a recent deal on Living Social, there was really no reason to further delay the inevitable - to enjoy one of the better meals I've had in Philly.

Tashan's open concept kitchen allowed us to see the chefs in action. It was particularly nice to see head chef Sylva Senat directing his troops. One of the top chefs in America when it comes to South Asian cuisine, Chef Senat's cuisine is highly reminiscent of the dishes offered during my visit to Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Spice Market in NYC. The tasting menu there is a flight through multiple Asian cuisines, while through Chef Senat, we were able to focus on India's best offerings. It doesn't hurt that the chef espouses Philly as an important destination for his brethren.

Still water is triple filtered here, which is always appreciated, and served in a 
Voss-like artesian water pitcher. Continuously replenished without any hint of obtrusiveness.

Tasting Menu ($45 pp)

The tasting menu is the way to go at Tashan, though I've noted the 
a la carte pricing for the dishes we were served. 

Agni ($10)
Bluecoat gin, lemon, honey, Hellfire bitters

I was in a gin kind of mood, so opted for the Agni, which was a refreshing libation with notes of sweetness and a bit of heat from the bitters and chili pepper. However, since the drink the GF ordered was a bit too 'straight up' for her liking, she took on the duties of finishing this drink. A kind way of saying I'm a BF that rocks.

Broad & Catherine ($12)
Tres Generaciones Anejo, Solerno blood orange, Agnostura bitters

I rather enjoyed the GF's drink, which highlighted the triple distilled tequila. Aged 3 years, this offers smooth agave flavors. The blood orange was subtle and the bitters offered an aromatic note. A cocktail meant to whet the palate, rather than down in one shot.

Palak Chaat ($8)
Crispy baby spinach, masala chaat, yogurt, pomegranate

One of my favorite dishes was the first offering of the night. The crispy baby spinach was quite similar to kale chips - simply a delicious preparation, tossed with a subtly sweet pomegranate sauce. The prototypical sweet and sour notes of the chaat masala spice mix were prevalant, but not overpowering. The yogurt helped to add a creamy texture and clean notes to the dish.

Gol-Gappa ($7)
Hollow durum puffs, spicy potato filling, tangy mint-cilantro

These durum wheat puffs were filled with a spicy potato filling, which provided a smooth textural contrast to the rest of these bites. The accompanying squeeze bottle of tangy mint cilantro helped heighten the herbal notes of the dish. These are best enjoyed by popping them in your mouth whole. 

Peshawari Naan ($6)
Cashew, pistachio, almond, coconut, raisin stuffing 

One of the GF's favorite dishes was this iteration of the oft-enjoyed naan. The naan was prototypical in its great texture - deliciously chewy. But what was really spectacular were the innards. The melange of coconut and raisin helped to provide sweet notes which melded well with the creamy nuttiness of the cashew, pistachio, and almond. I could easily eat this every morning with a cup of tea.

Tandoori Shrimp ($15)
Herbal fenugreek, toasted pea flour, basil-seed-coco yogurt

Cooked in a tandoor oven, these shrimp were perfectly cooked - snappy and meaty. The herbal fenugreek imparted a curry-like flavor, with the yogurt tempering the subtle spice. A pat of basmati rice accompanied the dish.

Alaskan King Crab Cake ($17)
Mustard seeds, curry leaves, citrus aioli

Cooked on a tawa, a flat griddle oftened used in South Asia, the Alaskan King crab cake was all sweet, meaty crab, and essentially no filler. The citrus aioli had highlights of saccharine lemon and brightened up the dish. The caviar provided pops of subtle salinity. The surrounding tortilla bowl was a bit chewy, but provided a necessary saltiness to each bite.

Palak Tikki ($10)
Screw-pine scented spinach patty, paneer-pistachio center, saffron-morel mushroom cream

The palak tikki was also cooked on a tawa and featured a 'spinach patty' with heft. The paneer cheese and pistachio center added extra weight and some tang to each bite. The saffron-morel mushroom cream sauce offered earthy notes. The dish could have used a bit more brightness or acidity and unfotunately, the bottom of the patty was a bit burnt. Still, the dish had great elements and was quite savory. 

Naga Beef Sumi ($14)
Snake River Farms wagyu, soy reduction, onion pakora, cucumber-peanut relish

I was happy that the tasting featured American wagyu sourced from Snake River Farms. While I prefer my wagyu rare, the skewers of meat kebobs were incredibly tender and flavorful, highlighting the marbled nature of the American wagyu.The cucumber-peanut relish helped to act as a light and fresh  counterbalance to the weight of the meat.The onion pakora 'fried fritter' had hints of smoky spice and were surprisingly lightly fried. The soy reduction was a nice addition to the pakora. 

Tashan Free-Range Butter Chicken ($20)
Tandoori chicken, fenugreek-scented tomato cream sauce

Cooked in a tandoor, the butter chicken is a classic Indian Punjabi dish and Tashan offered a perfect representation of the dish. The chicken was juicy and moist, while the cream sauce was luxurious, with some acidity from the tomato.

 The dish was accompanied by a huge dish of basmati rice and an endless supply of naan, perfect to sop up the last of that gorgeous tomato cream sauce.

Dessert Trio
Mango sorbet, chocolate mousse, Tashan crème brulee

Dessert was served as a trio for each of us. From right to left, we received a mango sorbet, which was tart and icy - a nice palate cleanser. The chocolate mousse was luxuriously smooth. The crème brulee was made with Tahitian vanilla bean. It consisted of a gulab jamun center, which is a popular cheese-based doughy dessert in India. My favorite of the troika.

Tashan is easily one of my favorite restaurants in Philly. Dishes are clearly inspired by Indian classics and are elevated to a level that remains delicious. Service was exceptional and our server Casey took good care of us. The space is well laid out and the walls housing 4,000 bottles of wine are impressive. A great place to take a date, hang out at happy hour, or simply enjoy a delicious meal. 
We'll be back soon. Or perhaps we'll hit up Munish Narula's new hot spot, Tiffin Bistro! A bit more upscale than Tiffin, but less of an upscale night out than Tashan.

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