Tallula Goes Haute Cuisine — And Is The Poorer For It
Gabriele and I recently went for dinner at Tallula for the first time in a while. As readers of this blog know, we’re big fans of the restaurants in the Neighborhood Restaurant Group. Unfortunately, things had changed since we last ate at Tallula.
I apparently was the last person in the DC area to realize that the wine shop next store had closed down. The restaurant is still very wine-centric, but no more good bottles for only $10-15 over their retail price, like at sister restaurant Evening Star in Del Ray. This was one of the big draws of Tallula for me, and a concept I wish more restaurants adopted. Now Tallula has gone in the opposite direction, and the wine list was full of depressingly typical restaurant prices that were 2x and even 3x retail.
Our waiter sent a wine steward over when we said we were interested in a bottle, and she seemed very knowledgeable. We were ordering fish but wanted a red wine, and we told her we often really like GSMs. She suggested we try a Spanish blend, the Mas Estela Quindals 2006.
The wine was 90% Grenache, 5% Syrah and 5% Carignan. It was light bodied, with a smoky flavor to it. Blueberry was the fruit that dominated for us, with a strong finish that had a spicy “zing” to it. In fact the finish led to a split decision between me and Gabriele on the wine. I thought the finish was too strong and distracting, while she enjoyed it. Based on Internet mentions looks to retail for around $25.
Everything we ordered was good, and the service was good as well. The main issue was the very small portion sizes. Gabriele’s tuna tartare was excellent, but not much bigger than an amuse-bouche. Her Brazino was flavorful but also small, and it had a lot of bones. My halibut was advertised as a bouillabaise, but came with a small amount of broth at the bottom of the plate and a piece of fish about 3 inches by 2 inches. This was surrounded by two clams, three mussels and four tiny potato pieces. It was delicious, but less than half the size it should have been.
It’s a bummer writing this, because the vibe of the restaurant, the service and the flavor of the food were all strong. But it hurts to leave a restaurant hungry after spending a good bit of money for a nice meal. Tallula today is just not a good value, and very different from its NRG cousin establishments. For a better experience I’d suggest you stick to the Eat Bar next door.