Friday, February 12, 2010

Restaurant Tallent

One of the main reasons for our girly weekend that started at FARMbloomington was to have dinner at Restaurant Tallent—and from every rave review I have ever heard I was maybe, just maybe, setting myself up for disappointment in some ways I guess. Don’t get me wrong, the meal was really good, just not the near perfection I was maybe wrongly expecting.

Anyhow, we were promptly seated, although as usual, I had to ask to not be seated in the 2 seats right in between two other very closely spaced tables at a banquette. This was a little annoying considering there was a two-seater available at the end of the banquette that was more appropriately spaced away from the others, and with no one on one side. We ended up sitting there at my request without too much hassle. I did enjoy sitting in the room with the kitchen and watching the chef at work. He obviously takes great pride in making sure that each plate goes out the way he wants it. I do think this “bar side” of the restaurant may be the less desirable side to be seated on in theory, because it isn’t the main room, but I enjoyed it because the noise level was not as intense. After all, the BFF and I had girl talk to discuss.

We were promptly served a nice amuse bouche of spaghetti squash pomodoro with a garlic chip on top. This was a really nice tasty bite. The tomato flavor was light and tasty and the garlic chip gave it quite an intense toasty garlic flavor on which we both commented.

The menu looked great, and to be honest it was all I could do to not just order appetizers—they all looked so good! I settled on the black truffle tagliatelle with mushrooms, spinach, parmesan and big hunks of pancetta. The pasta was excellent—homemade with an amazing truffle flavor. The mushrooms, spinach and a bit of the pancetta were really good too. If I had to complain about something, I would say it seemed like there were more pieces of the pancetta (and they were large dices) than there were mushrooms, and a few of them were a little too hard for my taste. I would have preferred a few more mushrooms and a little less bacon I guess. I did like that the overall portion was appropriately sized for an appetizer—I actually ate all of it (minus a bit of the pancetta). But overall, this pasta was really really good. Clearly my favorite dish of the evening. And you won’t want to share it, so don’t plan on splitting it with anyone!

My friend had the frisée salad with bacon, blue cheese, and a poached egg. It was interesting, they actually breaded the poached egg that was on the salad with some breadcrumbs—sort of looked like a Scotch egg on top. She shared a bit with me—it was good. Maybe a little underdressed, or maybe that was the bit I got, I don’t know.

For my main, I got the sole meuniere with sunchoke puree, bok choy and roasted mushrooms. Hmmm…not sure about this one. The ingredients were all very high quality, and were prepared properly. It was just like there was too much going on with this dish. And there was something—maybe just some very large peppercorn pieces-- that I kept biting into giving a disturbing crunch. I liked the sunchoke puree, it was a nice compliment, but there were so many different flavors between the mushrooms and the seasonings and the puree and veg, that it just seemed sort of confusing to me. You could certainly taste the lemon that is part of a meuniere sauce, but I don’t know, maybe I just expected a more delicate dish, particularly since our server told me it was one of the lighter dishes of the menu.

My friend, however, had the Cook’s farm bison with Lyonnaise potato gratin, Swiss chard, and sauce au poivre. This was really good—the bison was cooked perfectly medium rare and the potatoes were a nice complement. A wonderful alternative to the traditional meat and potatoes. And the chunky bits of peppercorns made sense here. It was really nice.

We both had a dessert—I had the butterscotch semi-freddo with brown sugar phyllo crisps and butterscotch sauce. Wow this was intense in its butterscotch goodness. Really good, and I loved the phyllo crisps with it—the super crispy texture with the ultra smooth texture of the semi freddo (which is sort of like a lighter, not as frozen version of ice cream, or a slightly frozen version of custard. “Semifreddo” literally translates to “half cold.”). It was extremely rich though, and would be a great dish to share.

My friend had the cranberry streusel with cranberry-orange compote and sorghum ice cream. It was nice as well—quite tart from the cranberries, but the creamy ice cream helped balance that out. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting though—I was sort of imagining more of a messy thing with a crumb topping, and this was more like a cross between a pie and a tart—thin like a tart, but with more of a pie crust underneath and a very orderly crumb toppping. Tasty though.

So all in all it was a very nice meal, and you can see the love that goes into each dish both in the creativity of the combinations and the beautiful seasonal items being used. Maybe my expectations were a little high, and I was just a bit disappointed in my entrée, but I can promise you, I will be back—and I would like to try for Spring or Summer, my favorite of the food seasons!

Restaurant Tallent
208 North Walnut
Bloomington, IN 47404
812/330-9801
http://www.restauranttallent.com/

3 comments:

  1. Similar experience…I had 3 courses, my wife had 3 as well so out of the 6 plates, 4 were great and 2 of them didn’t seem to be at the same level. However, the service was good, I liked the box, quality ingredients and a menu that was begging me to come back. Looking forward to a return visit sooner than later.

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  2. Sorry to digress, but can someone in the restaurant business explain seating policies?

    We were at 14 West last week, 6:30 reservation. I guess you can seat 30 tables, and when we got there maybe 4 tables were taken.

    Hostess takes us the via the scenic route the long way around the perimeter of the room, past 4 empty booths and half a dozen empty 4 tops. Then proceeds to seat us at a tiny 2 top six inches next to another couple already eating at their 2 top. I mean, we were practically in their lap in an empty restaurant.

    I don't usually whine about seating, they have their reasons whatever they may be. But this time I spoke and said, c'mon,is this really necessary? How busy do you plan to be tonight?

    They mumbled somethign about expecting to be really busy with Devour Downtown, but relented and moved us to a 4 top. Two hours later the restaurant was maybe half full.

    What gives? Don't tell me it's about waiter stations, I'm sure they don't assign solely 2 tops to certain staff.

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  3. I am somewhat releived at your review. I have had a similar experience at Restaurant Tallent. I have always felt the dishes were well prepared with excellent ingredients but there always seems one dish that sounds wonderful on the menu but I am not really happy with. I have always thought that maybe I just didn't get it. But I like it enough that I have been back several times. Usually in the winter though, maybe I should try the summer seasonal menu as well.

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Thanks, Erin