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Tabla Restaurant Review

Tabla Restaurant Review


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I took some folks to Tabla last night for a great dinner. I heartily recommend Tabla for a great night out with excellent food with a contemporary flair.


Restaurant review: Tabla

and was directed to a small table where my chair would have nestled against a customer at the noisy, crowded bar. I gently protested and pointed hopefully to a vacant table along a side wall. "Sorry," said the waitress, "that's being held for our VIPs."

VIPs at a neighborhood spot? What's next, I wondered individual lockers for patrons' Courvoisier? Private reservation lines known only by the elect to keep out the hoi polloi? It seemed utterly incongruous. But it suggests that Tabla, which at first blush looks like a casual, down-to-earth retreat, does have aspirations.

Open six years, Tabla was one of the first places in Portland to feature small plates and has always aimed for a kind of muted elegance. Sometimes it means nothing more than a squiggle of sauce decoratively piped around the rim of a plate sometimes, a particularly beautiful presentation of an otherwise simple dish and sometimes it signals a handsomely conceived and unusual pairing of ingredients. Often this elegance means you're in for a treat, but occasionally you wish a dish were less worked over and ornate in short, simpler, homier, rooted and unrefined.

To be sure, you can eat very well at Tabla, and the cheerful service and generally unpretentious atmosphere set a pleasant tone. A long L-shaped room in subdued tones, an ample bar and an open kitchen with stools providing a nice view of the preparations all promise a cheerful evening. The menu is auspicious: a small selection of thoughtfully chosen appetizers, a number of pastas served in either half or full portions (always a good sign for those who want to dine Italian style with pasta as a first course) and an attractive selection of entrees.

Chef Anthony Cafiero enjoys working variations on the same item, another good sign, suggesting both a solid commitment to favorite ingredients and a desire to experiment to keep things interesting. Thus, one evening for an appetizer, chunks of tender octopus arrived, Catalan-style, with bits of chorizo, almonds and garlic, and splashed with sherry. On another occasion, the cephalopod was paired with cubed potatoes in a spicy romesco sauce.

Another fine starter, a roasted beet salad with wedges of delicately poached pear and hazelnuts, is notable for its unusual texture. Instead of being cut into quarters or slices, the beet, pulsed in a blender, resembles little bits of roe, popping in the mouth with satisfying detonations of flavor. Perhaps the best first course is a luxurious bisque of smoked scallop, salsify, fennel and cider. Typical of many dishes here, the scallops, mere Lilliputian nuggets, exist less as objects in their own right than to render up and release their flavor, turning the velveteen and slightly sweet soup smoky and pungent. But there's a curiosity in the bunch: "rillette" of fried pork arrives warm, served with dried beans and pickled chard. Traditionally, rillettes are pulverized meats potted with a thin layer of fat and served cold, usually spread on toast. Nothing is gained by Tabla's odd version, more a gratuitous invention than a creative variation.

The kitchen generally does well with pasta. I was impressed by the fresh tajarin, a Piedmontese version of narrow-ribboned tagliatelle laden with egg yolks for golden richness. Sauced simply with truffled butter, it was as good as I've had west of Alba. And tagliatelle with a chile-flecked tomato-pork sauce is a perfect fall pickup. But another classic dish from Piedmont, agnolotti, to my taste did not benefit from their stuffing of pureed carrots, making them far too sweet what's more, they arrived lukewarm instead of piping hot.

Main courses can be uneven. Porcini mushroom polenta was much too firm and overladen with squash and apple salad and roasted mushrooms, for a rather unappealing pileup. Tabla is at its best when it doesn't try too hard for embellishment. The beautifully braised short ribs enhanced simply by red cabbage makes for a perfect autumnal dish. The same is true of a decently done duck confit, with correctly crackling skin with just the right amount of fattiness beneath. And pan-roasted quail is terrific, meatier than is often the case with this bird. There's just too much on the plate: quinoa croquette, beet root and chickweed salad, pork belly, cherry gastrique. Simplify! Simplify!

Desserts are the weakest link in the meal. There's an unfortunate blandness in both the milk chocolate panna cotta (why not a deeper, darker chocolate?) and the soapy tiramisu torte. Bread pudding lacks the rusticity this dish cries for, its texture as interesting as Styrofoam. Some serious attention is needed to boost flavors and to make a statement. Only the cheese plate, with a balanced offering and excellent fig mostarda, stands out.

Tabla's great feature is a three-course dinner for a mere $24 (though several dishes entail a modest supplement). Make that appetizer, pasta and entree. For dessert, Ben and Jerry's from the carton.


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Joanna Gaines’ New Cookbook Is Your Answer to Dinner Party Perfection

The Magnolia Table is going to change the way you treat yourself—and guests, too.

Our favorite HGTV star has finally released her very first cookbook, and honestly, we couldn’t be more excited. The Fixer Upper star dishes on her style in the kitchen and more than 125 of her favorite recipes with fans. Magnolia Table covers breakfast, lunch, dinner, sides, and appetizers, plus one heck of a dessert section.

We took an early look at Gaines&apos new cookbook, which is available for purchase today and available wherever books are sold. We weren&apost too shocked to see that Magnolia Table relies heavily on ingredients that aren&apost regularly in our arsenal, as it&aposs not a diet companion, but we were surprised to see how Joanna incorporated some of her lighter recipes into her cookbook.

Stay up to date on what healthy means now.

Joanna&aposs recipes and gorgeous photography feel home-cooked, farm-raised, and restaurant ready all at once—we couldn&apost help but stop at the book&aposs introduction, where Gaines lays out a list of kitchen staples and gadgets she keeps on hand.

Born in Kansas and now famously residing in Texas, Gaines is deeply rooted in her Southern culture𠅊nd Magnolia Table&aposs recipes truly illustrate that identity.

But these Southern classics get an ingenious Fixer Upper-like twist. Fried green tomatoes are topped with a creamy, quick rémoulade sauce, and "1919 Pimento Cheese" is a popular dish at the Gaines&apos Waco, Texas restaurant, also called Magnolia Table. The name is a nod to the restaurant space&aposs previous occupant, the਎lite Cafe, which opened in 1919.

Tucked away behind these indulgent, mouth-watering pages of buttery biscuits, cheesy casseroles, and sweet jams, are some healthier meals we can definitely get behind.

Dinners like grilled salmon with Meyer lemons and creamy cucumber salad, grilled raspberry-chipotle pork tenderloin, and perfect roast chicken feel perfect for summer menus. And we can&apost help but eye dishes like white bean hummus and peach caprese, which make any backyard barbecue that much better.

Excited to try some recipes out of this!

A post shared by Jessica Kohrman (@jesskohrman) on Apr 22, 2018 at 10:09am PDT

What&aposs more, Magnolia Table goes beyond Joanna&aposs obvious Southern heritage—the book surprised us with a collection of dishes that paid homage to Joanna&aposs extended family history. Dropped in between pages of American classics like apple pie and mashed potatoes are "Syrian Donuts, "Mom’s Bulgogi," and "Jo’s Fatayar." These recipes represent her Korean and Lebanese background, and are a welcome departure from the other dishes within the title.

While we wish we could convince Joanna to pay more attention to nutrition in the future, Magnolia Table doesn&apost list calorie counts or other nutritional info in its pages. Nevertheless, I wanted to try one of the more healthy-ish dishes to really taste the flavors that have Magnolia Table so famous.

As soon as I stumbled upon the stunning image attached to blackened fish tacos with red cabbage and mango slaw, I had found my test subject.

Though I substituted a bag of coleslaw mix in for the red cabbage, I followed the directions to a tee (nearly, anyway). This particular recipe was fairly straightforward and easy to follow, and I think that any home cook should be able to tackle Joanna&aposs recipes with ease.

The final product was fairly tasty. I was slightly disappointed that the book&aposs photograph included avocados and the intro mentioned them. but they weren’t included in the ingredient list. The recipe definitely needed a tad more of a creamy element, so my pro tip, should you make Joanna&aposs tacos yourself, is the finishing touch of everyone&aposs favorite fruit.

Overall, I found the book is worth its weight in gold—if you’re looking for some simple classic meals, andਏor a wholesome way to splurge once in a while in your own kitchen. Joanna Gaines isn&apost trying to shine in the health space, sure, but I&aposm a big fan of cookbooks that I feel like I&aposll actually use. And this is one thatਊny cook will turn to, again and again.

Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering is on sale April 24.


Cost & Pricing

Food on the Table is free at the basic subscription level. At this level, you will be able to choose three recipes for the week based on the criteria you entered, or you can choose from Food on the Table’s recipe database.

Food on the Table will generate a grocery list for those three meals, but no more. You are on your own to plan the rest of your meals for the week, make a grocery list, and find ingredients on sale. But if you are new to Food on the Table, this is a great way to try out their service.

There are a variety of paid subscription options, but each subscription is the same – it allows you to plan seven meals for the week and have a grocery list generated for all those meals. Subscription pricing is as follows:

  • Monthly – $9.95
  • Quarterly – $26.95 (save $1.07 per month off a monthly subscription)
  • Semiyearly – $47.95 (save $1.96 per month off a monthly subscription)
  • Yearly – $69.95 (save $4.12 per month off a monthly subscription)

I Tasted These Recipes From Joanna Gaines&rsquos New Cookbook, and I&rsquom in Food Heaven

These dishes are just as tasty as you&rsquod expect.

Joanna Gaines—of HGTV’s Fixer Upper The Magnolia Story the Waco, Texas, Silos and so much more—is known across the country for her signature rustic chic design aesthetic and for her playful, heartfelt relationship with husband Chip and soon-to-be five children. She has left her mark across the interior design world, Waco, and HGTV, and now she’s leaving her mark on the culinary world, too.

Joanna’s first (and hopefully not last) cookbook, Magnolia Table,was released April 24 a restaurant of the same name opened in Waco earlier this year. In the cookbook and the restaurant, Joanna shares recipes for everything from comfort food to family-favorite dishes𠅊nd Real Simple was able to sample a few dishes from the Fixer Upper star herself at a luncheon celebrating the cookbook’s launch in New York City.

Unsurprisingly, everything was delicious: The biscuits were fluffy and rich, the cookies were complexly flavorful, and the chicken salad was a refreshing delight. All these recipes𠅊nd many, many more𠅊re available in Magnolia Table,but here are some of Real Simple’s favorites, with recipes for you to sample for yourself at home.


D.C.’s second Georgian restaurant has opened in Northwest. Tabla is a casual neighborhood restaurant at the corner of Lamont Street and Georgia Avenue in the Park View neighborhood (between Petworth and Howard University). ‘Tabla’ is a Georgian word for an outdoor table used to serve the copious amounts of food characteristic of a traditional supra, a celebratory feast enjoyed in the country.

Thrillist

Nothing will fill you up more than hearty Georgian-style lasagna and cheesy, buttery khachapuri. This come-as-you-are eatery from the team behind Supra has a budget-friendly menu and quick service style that makes Tabla an all around winner. It’s also a choice spot for breakfast or brunch with a new breakfast khachapuri, adding roasted root vegetables and cheese topped with a fried egg.


Flavorful, exceptional culinary rhythm: Find it at Tabla Winter Park

Sizzling plates are glamorous. Like leggy movie stars emerging from limousines, their long shapely plumes of aroma come forth from the kitchen, that tantalizing hiss a culinary equivalent to the whir and flash of the paparazzi’s cameras — and heads turn, waiting to see what alluring dish is causing the stir.

Hoisted high to the shoulder, you’ll see necks crane, diners hoping to catch a glimpse. Our server carried his tray low to our table at Tabla Winter Park, past a gentleman sitting alone, just adjacent. His head turned toward the sound of the sizzle, the smell of the cumin, the onion, the fat of the meat as it caramelized on the searing-hot platter.

He smiled. “I should be eating with you,” he said in our general direction.

I’d been hoping for a “When Harry Met Sally”-esque, “I’ll have what they’re having.”

He was too young for such a reference, but the platter had done much the same thing Meg Ryan did during that comical, semi-racy scene in Katz’s Delicatessen. It stole the show.

I sometimes feel a little like the Billy Crystal character when I order such things, to be honest. I’d rather just have my corned beef — or in this case, tandoori lamb chops ($32), without fanfare — but there’s no other way to get them save the sexy floor show of the platter parade.

If you’re similarly shy, push through it. Every bite is worth the gawk fest.

Perfectly tender, medium-rare lamb on the bone. Yes, go ahead and pick one up with your hands, everyone’s staring, anyway. Marvel as the flesh breaks apart, as the layers of flavor present themselves in waves. Don’t be rude to your dining companion but do take a moment to pay attention to the experience. Close your eyes if you have to.

And do it with every dish.

Tabla isn’t new new — its sister restaurant near Universal has been around for more than a decade — and the Winter Park outpost brought a new level of Indian cuisine to this part of town when it opened earlier this year.

Not the best year in which to expand, but with food this sensational (and with deals to boot 20 percent off with $50 minimum takeout and free curbside pickup!) it’s not surprising they’ve weathered the pandemic storm.

Our dine-in experience was outside, sort of. Tabla operates in the space formerly known as Paris Bistro and it’s a beaut. “Outdoor” tables aren’t precisely that, but rather inside a mall of sorts, with fountains and water features. No air conditioning, but safe from the rain.

We began with a chaat platter ($15). Chaat is a catch-all term for the many varieties of Indian street fare served snack-style. It features pani puri, delicately fried poufs you’ll crack open and stuff with savory potato and chickpeas. It gets something of a hipster treatment with a cute mason jar in which the rounds are served. It comes alongside exceptional samosa, dahi bhalla (smothered, fried lentil fritters) and aloo tikka chaat (a lovely version of these delicious potato patties). All makes for a fun, festive share.

“Cannot be made mild” was the warning on some of Tabla’s dishes. For me, that’s a siren song. I negotiated with my dining partner for the goat vindaloo ($19) and she was a trooper, enjoying it even as she dabbed the cloth napkin to her brow.

Tender goat falls from the bone with zero effort, all of it bathed in beautiful bright-red gravy that brings the heat formidably, but also gently. The flavors — garlic, vinegar, cumin, coriander and what seems like a thousand others all remain, a kaleidoscope for the palate, the colors shifting within each bite.

It seems like a love letter, I know, but it was the same for takeout — which was delivered to my car moments after pulling up. In this sack: the green chili naan ($4) I’d skipped last time in my spice negotiations gobi Manchurian and junglee lal mass ($19), a gorgeous, traditionally spicy dish from North India — we chose lamb as the protein — and dal gosht, more goat, this time simmered with black lentils in an onion-tomato masala.

My friend’s daughter, at 15, has been on the hunt for the city’s best gobi Manchurian ($12 fried cauliflower in a rich, spicy toss) and had proclaimed Tabla’s to be the pinnacle. She may well be right. This version isn’t steeped in its gravy — a nice feature, since so many of the other dishes provide a wealth for naan immersion.

As for the rest? More tender meat, more pervasive seasonings — aromatic, layered, ridiculous. Sauces you can’t resist spooning up even as you’re packing the leftovers. Lentils that melt away on a cloud of tempered spices. On a river of ghee.


Scott Joseph Review

Now that vaccines are making it possible to return to indoor dining, I have a list of restaurants I’ve been aching to visit in person. Tabla’s Winter Park location has been at the top of that list.

Tabla, in its original location, was one of the very first restaurants I reviewed on this website – actually even before this website, in its earlier iteration, back in 2008. I was an immediate fan of the food, but the atmosphere – a rather soulless room off the lobby of an even soullesser hotel near Universal Orlando – left something to be desired. Improvements were made over the years, but when it was announced that Tabla’s owners would open a second location in the former Paris Bistro space in the Shops on Park arcade, I thought, “Finally, they’ve found the perfect home.”

And they have. Though smaller than the Orlando location, the Winter Park restaurant offers a dining experience that is simultaneously intimate and distanced, using the interior dining room with its full-wall window looking out to an atrium with covered dining under a never deciduous tree. And if that isn’t enough, there are also tables on the sidewalk fronting Park Avenue.

On a recent visit, my guests and I chose a table in the atrium and ordered ourselves a feast of delicious appetizers, entrees and breads. After nibbling on some papery papadum drizzled with mint chutney, we ordered a platter of chaats, including pani poori, samosa, dahi bhalla and aloo tikki.

We enjoyed poking holes in the puffy pani puri and filling them with the spiced potato mixture.

The bhalla papdi chaat had spiced chickpeas and potatoes with tortilla-like flour strips in a yogurt sauce.

We also shared some coconut shrimp with panko jackets, crisply fried, and served with a sweet and spicy sauce.

One of my guests chose the chicken boti kabab from the list of tandoori selections. I generally ignore the tandoor foods on Indian menus because I’ve too often been disappointed with dry, flavorless meats. But this was just the opposite. The breast meat was moist and tender, and the paste that coated the chunks was well spiced and flavorful.

Another guest’s choice of lamb palak gosht turned out to be my favorite among the entrees. The spinach-based sauce, flavored with garlic, tomatoes and onions, was perfect with the tender hunks of meat and was extra delicious when spooned over the accompanying rice.

For my entree I chose the vindaloo shrimp, served in a spicy gravy with potatoes and vinegar. I appreciated that a note on the menu told diners that this dish cannot be prepared mild – vindaloos are not mild. Mine was spiced between medium and hot and it suited me just fine.

The onion kulcha we ordered for the table was soft and filled with onions and spices and provided another fine platform for conveying the gravies and sauces.

Service was knowledgeable and attentive. My guests and I appreciated that our server timed the entrees to follow once we’d finished out appetizers so that we weren’t overwhelmed my an overflowing table.

By the way, Tabla still offers Chinese and Thai selections, but I’ve always preferred chef Sajan Prem’s Indian dishes. And I’m thrilled they’re now showcased in a proper venue. (Check out Prem demonstrating his chicken curry recipe in an edition of Scott’s Kitchen.)

Tabla Winter Park is at 216 N. Park Ave. (map). It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 321-422-0321.


Why did the food media ignore the best-selling cookbook of 2018?

More than a month into the shiny new year, anyone who is in the business of needing to know can obtain a total data picture for 2018 — pages viewed, exercise hours spent, units sold. I am always keen to survey the cookbook realm, wondering whether the food media’s “best-of” lists reflect what the American public craves.

I thought I had a handle on what the most popular cookbook would be, but I was Marco Polo off. Ice-cold wrong. Would you have guessed, without the photographic hint? Its author is a first-timer in the field, and its content was not driven by electric multicookers or immigrant cuisine.

In figuring out why I was so off base, I cooked or supervised the testing of 20 of its recipes, far more than for the average cookbook review. The process also took me places I did not expect to go: forcing me to own up to preconceptions and examining some of what it takes to mega-sell a cookbook. Turns out, the reliability of the recipes doesn’t always matter. But if you are an inveterate cookbook reader, you might have already known that.

Delish did include it in its list. USA Today gave the book a thumbs-up, as did Taste of the South magazine and Better Homes and Gardens.

The winner is “Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering” by Joanna Gaines, published in April by William Morrow ($30). More than 1.3 million copies had sold by November, and more than 2 million copies are now in print. According to NPD Bookscan, “Magnolia Table” was the No. 2 bestseller across the entire book industry last year, behind Michelle Obama’s autobiography. That’s a lot of Jojo’s Biscuits.

Those buttery biscuits and convenience-product casseroles and green beans amandine, the meatloaf and apple pie are what “Magnolia Table” is made of, but hardly the draw. Joanna and her husband, Chip, are beloved lifestyle royalty who are by all accounts genuinely nice folks. Their hit “Fixer Upper” series ran on HGTV for five seasons, until the couple, citing a need for more family time, ended it. Their Magnolia Foundation is involved in community restoration. Their Magnolia Market retail complex has made Waco, Tex., a destination for ardent fans, whose hunger is partly responsible for this cookbook. Above all else, the book demonstrates how well the Gaineses know their audience.


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