We made it to Talula’s Garden (210 W Washington Square) to sample Chef Aimee Olexy’s collaboration with famed restaurateur Stephen Starr and it was wonderful. The SRG influence is clear from the service perspective as the experience begins once you walk in the door. The staff to guest ratio is low as I found more staff readily available than in many other spots I’ve enjoyed. This added to the homey feeling we had from the beginning of our visit. It didn’t hurt that we were at a large, high ‘farmers table’ in the back of the restaurant adjacent to where the cheese was prepared.
For starters, it’s important to realize that they offer cheese to start because it’s darned good and it’s expected that you get some. This is a place where, if you don’t order food beyond your main course, you’ll leave unfulfilled. We did no such thing. We started with 4 cows milk cheeses ranging from mild and creamy to hard and sharp: a great start to our meal. We also started with some fantastic creations from the bar; I strongly recommend their take on the mint julep – it’s a winner.
Our first items from the kitchen were the flourless ricotta gnudi and the Rabbit Lasagnetta. The gnudi was more of a formed cheese ball (not complaining), but the accompaniment of fava beans and the pecorino made the dish. The gnudi seemed like a Richard Blais or Wylie Dufresne take on cheese with the assumption that some molecular gastronomy was at play in order to form the ricotta into perfect circles. The Rabbit lasagnetta was an unfurled bowtie in a rabbit ragout which resembled a pork-like richness. This is a rich dish and therefore, the lack of quantity was acceptable.
For our mains, we had surf and turf. I ordered the glazed lobster tail and pork belly and my wife had the beef (two ways) – short rib and strip steak. On my end of dinner, the lobster was perfectly prepared, but I found the citrus a bit overpowering. The pork belly was wonderful and was clearly slowly prepared to perfection. My wife’s meal was great; the short rib fell apart, yet featured a carmelization which reflected some serious technique. The strip was also a perfect mid-rare and exhibited the flavor only available to meat sourced locally.
I’m not sure how we had room, but we shared their mini-donuts for dessert and who doesn’t like fried dough? I think the doughnuts were a bit over-done, but still had the lightness that they should and easily held on to the berry conserves which were served as a compliment.
The final verdict is that Talula’s Garden is a great space featuring some wonderful, local foods in a comfortable setting. It’s a fairly pricey night out, but justifiable due to the quality and service combined with a welcoming atmosphere as well. We will most certainly return.