Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A brush with greatness at Tabla's 10th Anniversary party

Late last week, I received a surprise phone call from my friend AR at Union Square Hospitality Group (the illustrious owners of such awesome NYC food establishments as Union Square Cafe, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, Shake Shack, etc.). He wanted to know if I wanted to join him at Tabla's 10th anniversary party Monday evening. Hmmmm, did I? I thought for a while, weighing the pros and the long, long list of cons, and finally gave up and agreed. I figured I'd take one for the team. And by "the team" I mean myself. And by "take one" I mean "do something immensely enjoyable and thoroughly awesome."

So on a chilly Monday evening, I met AR at the bar at Almond, a newish restaurant in the old Borough Food and Drink space on 22nd Street. We caught up at the bar while munching on a few appetizers. The arugula, beets, and roquefort salad was quite tasty, with the candied walnuts playing a starring role. I liked the multi-colored beets-- a nice touch-- but thought they could have been cooked a little bit more (as I quote one of the Foo Fighters on Top Chef two weeks ago: they were a bit "al dente-- meaning not cooked all the way through").

Looks like orange supremes, but actually golden beets

Next we tried the cauliflower gratin. This ended up being sort of like macaroni and cheese, except with cauliflower in place of the macaroni and a thin cheesy sauce. The bread crumb crust on top was tasty, and the little stone pedestel the bartender set up on which to perch the gratin was very cool.

Faux mac 'n' cheese

Finally, we went for the cheese plate. I'm not sure which cheeses were included here-- there was definitely a chevre, some sort of brie-like soft cheese, perhaps a hunk of parmesan and a bit of blue cheese, but I don't know any more specifics than that. The accompaniments were delightful as well, adding dried fruit, nuts, and figs stewed in red wine to the mix as well as buttered toasts. A good cheese plate overall, although it would be nice if they specified the types of cheese at some point in the cheese-plate-ordering cycle.

Busy, and rustic

After we had sampled all three apps, we packed things up and dashed over to Tabla to join the party. On the way in we bumped into the GM of Gramercy Tavern (swoon, swoon), which was quite awesome in itself. Finally, we made it into the restaurant. I've never been to Tabla, and for most of the party I stood around admiring the incredibly beautiful space. Downstairs is the Bread Bar, an incredible room with colorful, playful details such as the conical light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. Upstairs, the dining room was cleared of all tables, most of which usually center around the circular balcony that peeks down over the Bread Bar. The restaurant is simply stunning, with lots of different levels, a beautiful floor, and decorative touches all around.

And then, of course, there was the food. Runners dashed around offering tiny, beautiful plates of food, which we grabbed, photographed, and gobbled. Below is a sampling of the delights:

Oxtail on tapioca pearls

Shellfish salad

An Indian-spiced onion ring. That's my hand.

Pumpkin soup (delicious) with tiny floating pepitas

Crabcake on some sort of guacamole-like puree

Meatloaf (?), next to an Indian spice installation

Naan! Dripping with ghee and tasting of chewy cornmeal. Accompanied by spicy tomato dipping sauce, which was FANTASTIC

While sampling these culinary delights, we wandered around the room greeting USHG luminaries, from the chefs and GM at Tabla to the GM at Eleven Madison Park (triple swoon!). I couldn't stay long so dashed out just as Danny Meyer himself was arriving, but even the small taste I got was surreal. And I'll add that Tabla is an incredible place-- the food was spectacular, and the space itself is stunning. I can't wait to return, even absent the food celebrity set.

12 E. 22nd Street, between Broadway and Park Avenue

11 Madison Avenue

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