Friday, January 09, 2015


I have two major problems with Tallulah’s, the first one being that the mid-century décor in no way matches the menu. It seems like they put a lot of effort in giving the dining room the feel of a suburban 1970’s ranch house, though noticeably missing was shag carpeting, and I also sincerely doubt that the wait staff are sporting the requisite, period appropriate, giant teddy bear tumbleweed pubes. One would logically expect the menu to feature classic midcentury dishes like gelatin salads, Steak Diane, Crepes Suzette, or Baked Alaska, and a bar menu that includes Harvey Wallbangers, Grasshoppers, and Pink Squirrels. People love Mad Men shit; mostly because everyone loves the idea of getting shitfaced at work and fucking a secretary, so why not capitalize on it?

But of course the menu is nothing like that: instead, it’s a very Matt Dillonesque flirtation with middle eastern flavors, with shit like walnut muhammara ($5) and red pepper hummus ($5) and grilled halloumi cheese with grapefruit and fennel ($12). We skipped that stuff because we’d just eaten at London Plane and everyone bitched at me about it.

Instead we started with baby beets and goat yogurt ($6). A motley collection of red, yellow, and pink beets, plated awkwardly, root side up, so that it looked like the minarets of the Kremlin, only made of beets. There was a tangy slick of yogurt beneath these. Despite the strange presentation, the beets were sweet and seasoned well, soft and crimson like an infant’s still-beating heart; the yogurt efficiently cock blocked the beets’ almost cloying sweetness.

A pick from the happy hour menu, grilled chicken wings with harissa ($6) was a pretty good deal, because for this price we got six chicken wings, grilled and tossed in a spicy harissa marinade. These were mostly good, but the “drumette” part of the wing, AKA the chicken’s bicep, was missing, with only the “forearm” part of the wing and the wing tips served. Plus, the skin was flabby and swayed loosely in the breeze like your mom’s upper arm, but on the other hand the meat was succulent like your mom at a Michael Buble concert, and the sauce had a defiant backbone of sour and spicy harissa paste. The wings were definitely not a slam dunk, though they weren’t terrible: let’s call this one a push.

Brussels sprouts with apples and hazelnuts ($6) were okay. The sprouts were halved and obviously pan roasted, caramelized as fuck on the cut surfaces, and the apples and hazelnuts were great textural additions, but in general the sprouts had that farty smell lingering about them, like brussels sprouts you were force fed by your mom as a kid. Now, however, the tables are turned: I force your mom to eat things all the time, and I assure you it’s not brussels sprouts.

A wild mushroom, chevre, and aged sherry vinegar flatbread ($11) was generally tasty, with a bubbly crust and lots and lots of sautéed mushrooms on top, but chevre always pisses me off: it’s just one rung above cottage cheese in the bland fucking boring cheese hierarchy. If you want to use goat cheese, how about one with some balls, like goat’s milk feta or a bleu goat cheese.

Lamb burger with zucchini, harissa, and fries ($14), on the other hand, was masterful: a succulent patty of ground lamb was seared ruthlessly on the outside, while still remaining a confident medium rare inside. This was topped with a mandolined ribbon of zucchini, which was as unlikely a condiment as it was tasty, serving as a cooling counterpoint to the harissa, once again used with restraint. The fries were quite salty, but not in a bad way, and very crisp.

We didn’t get dessert, which brings me to the SECOND problem I had with Tallulah’s: the bartender, hereafter referred to as Oblivia Wilde, fucking sucked. We sat at the bar to eat, and it was like an act of Congress to get the chick to get us a drink. And when she eventually DID bring our drinks, they sucked. The house made rootbeer ($5) was fucking gross as fuck. It was a cloudy and opaque brown, like they used too much sarsaparilla, or birch, or something. The classic flavors of wintergreen and vanilla were sadly lacking, and it was bitter, and so grainy it actually clogged the straw when I tried to sip it!

I was sad like a kid whose ice cream fell on the ground when I drank this stuff. I mean, COME THE FUCK ON: I realize that this is probably how root beer was made back in the cowboy days but one of the benefits of living in the modern day is that technology improves things. For instance, there were no left and right shoes until about 1800. Doctors once prescribed mercury, a highly toxic metal, to (unsuccessfully) treat syphilis. And anyone who’s ever had a 2400bps modem knows that downloading porn in those days was an exercise in futility which could drive even the Dalai Lama to paroxysms of rage.So thank fucking god modern rootbeer like Virgil's or Thomas Kemper's doesn't taste like storm drain runoff.

I really couldn’t understand what was going on. It wasn’t like we were drinking pain in the ass drinks like a pousse café or a mojito or a homonculus. We were having whiskey and champagne for fuck’s sake. All Oblivia Wilde had to do was POUR the damn stuff. But that was apparently too demanding a task, so instead of getting dessert and drinking until I was channeling Peter O’Toole, we went elsewhere. Too bad, Tallulah’s!

Tallulah’s isn’t bad, just maddening. The food is actually pretty tasty, with a focus on interesting vegetable dishes and bold flavors that still manage to show chivalrous restraint. But it just doesn’t sync with the décor. The food should scream STAGFLATION! or GAS SHORTAGES! or even, god forbid, BRADY BUNCH! But sadly it doesn’t. And if you do decide to go to Tallulah’s, for fuck’s sake, just drink water.

Rating: 6.5 shortages out of 10

Tallulah’s is located at 550 19th Ave E

For reservations (parties of 6 or more) call 206-860-0077

Tallulah's on Urbanspoon

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