I apologize for not updating for the longest time. To be honest, I was a little bit lazy, but hopefully I can get back into the habit of writing more often.
Two weeks ago I was in Philadelphia to attend Meg & PB’s wedding. This was the second time I’ve been to The City of Brotherly Love so I’ve already visited the historic attractions and the only thing I knew would keep my attention would be pigging out at some of Philadelphia’s hottest restaurants.
One of the places I had to try was Talula’s Garden. As I was going through one of our issues of Bon Apetit Magazine and I came across a section where one of the writers listed his Top 10 new restaurants in the country and Talula’s Garden came in at #6.
I really love how their menus are clipped together by clothes-lines clips. The first one in yellow is their cheese menu which I read so much about. I really wanted to order something from the cheese menu but I knew I still wanted an appetizer, a main course, and dessert, so opted not to order one. The main menu is varied and came with descriptions of what will come on your plate. Since there were too many things I wanted to try on the menu, I needed a little help from our waiter, Bob, to help me narrow the list down by describing how some of the dished were cooked. I expected him to just name a few of his favorites, but he ended up explaining about ten different things and described how each one was prepared and even defined some cooking terms that most people wouldn’t know. Most of them were French terms and I kind of forgot what he was saying because there was a little too much information. Anyways, after placing our order, we just relaxed and enjoyed the ambiance of the restaurant.
We chose to sit outside in the main “garden” because I wanted this experience to be different. I could describe walking into the space as magical. It’s like leaving the hustle and bustle of the city and stepping into an oasis where you expect to see fairies flying around.
Even though it started getting a little cold and windy, the staff were very accommodating and turned on the outdoor heaters for us. While waiting for our food, we enjoyed people watching in the garden.
Talula’s Garden is one of those restaurants that you might miss if you were just passing by because it is located in between two buildings and the gate at the front is covered with plants that kind of block the view of the dining area from the outside.
Since I mentioned it was getting a little chilly, I decided to order myself a nice pot of mint tea. When it was delivered, our waiter even told me how long the tea has been steeping! I really like how the tea isn’t from a tea bag and that they were loose leaves in a strainer.
Our first appetizer was the House Smoked Sturgeon Rillette, Mustard, Toast, Crème Fraiche, and Petite Herb Salad. The sturgeon looked like a piece of cheese, but it was all mashed up inside. You can really taste the smokiness of the fish and it was simply amazing. What I really loved was that it was not too fishy. I think this was the first time I’ve ever had sturgeon and I really enjoyed it.
Next was the Braised Rabbit, Handkerchief Pasta, Pecorino, Green Olives, and Fava Beans. It came out in this huge bowl and I was shocked that it was such a huge serving . . . until they lifted off the cover and then I just LOLed because it was actually very small. The bowl was being a tease. As for the rabbit, I wouldn’t have known what it was if it wasn’t for the menu telling me that it was. If they told me it was pulled pork, I would have believed them. The pasta was nice and aldente and it was a very savory dish. I thought the texture of the peas went well with the dish and the only thing that would have made the dish better would be if it were not as salty.
My main dish was the Muscovy Duck Breast and Confit Duck Leg, Autumn Chestnuts, Pears, and Spicy Mustard Greens. This was basically duck three ways – the breast, confit, and foie gras. Man was the foie gras rich! All of it was great, but I have to say that the confit duck leg was my favorite, probably because it was dark meat. If you love duck, this is the dish to get. Living in San Francisco, it’s easy to get roasted duck because of all of the Chinese restaurants, but they’re usually just fat and don’t have much meat. This duck is much leaner and it doesn’t feel like you’re just eating all the grease.
Mom had the Roasted Leg of Lamb, Honey Glazed Squash, Braised Kale, and Niçoise Olive Vinaigrette. This was another great dish. You can see that the lamb was cooked perfectly and it was very tender. At first, I thought the olives would have an overpowering taste, but it stayed in the background and lets the flavor of the meat shine through. I didn’t eat much of it because I had my own dish, but if I were to go back, I would highly consider ordering this as my meal (if they still have it on their menu, I think they change it seasonally).
To finish off the dinner properly, we had to close with not one, but two desserts. First was the Little Sweet Ricotta Doughnuts. It was served with blackberries, figs, a chocolate-hazlenut sauce and an apple-ginger spread. The doughnuts were very hot and kind of dense inside. Mom didn’t care for the apple-ginger spread, but i enjoyed it. It was kind of like apple sauce, but a much higher quality.
Last, but in no means least, was the showstopper of desserts. This is the Dark Chocolate Cremeaux. It was served with a Smokey Chocolate Crumble, Marshmallow, and Bacon. Once I read “bacon” on the menu, I was sold! For some reason I was expecting a chocolate cake and warm, but I was surprised to see three sticks of chocolate mouse and ice cream. The marshmallows were homemade and not too sweet. The bacon was to die for. Just thinking about the salty and sweet flavors and the crunchy and creamy textures all in my mouth just makes me smile. This is dessert heaven! I don’t know what could have ended the night better.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my dinner here. I mean, how to you go wrong with a restaurant with the name “Talula” in it? The food was spot on and the service was great. They have many runners, so they were attentive in having plates cleared and drinks filled. All of the staff are very friendly and patient and well put together. The atmosphere is relaxing and not stuffy at all. I loved how the people who come here are hip and you just feel cool being there.
I have to give a special shout-out to our waited, Bob, who provided us with exceptional service. I am so glad we had him. Not only was he knowledgeable about the menu and how everything was prepared, he also had some really great suggestions on where to eat. I love asking the locals where they love to hang out, especially if they are highly educated in culinary arts. After our meal, Bob literally stood by our table for about 10 minutes writing down all these restaurants we would be interested in trying. We also spoke about restaurants in San Francisco because he’s been here several times and the similarities the two cities have in common in term of people and food culture. You knew he loved what he does for a living and he is such a great asset to Talula’s Garden. That man earned himself a very nice tip, if I do say so myself.
Food: 4.689 / 5
Service: 10 / 5
Atmosphere: 4.5 / 5
*One thing to note is that the restroom is inside the main dining room, behind a huge door. There isn’t a specific Men and Women’s only restroom. Everyone uses the same sink, but everyone gets their own private room to do their business. One thing I found funny was that the sinks were all automatic and I guess the sensors are really sensitive so whenever you walk by them all of the sinks automatically start flowing, which is kind of a waste of water, but makes for a unique bathroom experience.