We don’t usually write about a restaurant the same night we eat there, but there are a couple of circumstances that come together to make tonight an exception. For one thing, this wasn’t our first rodeo…we’ve eaten at Tallula before and had a great meal every time. More important, though, is the fact that one of the recommendations we’re about to make has a distinct expiration date: this Sunday.
Along with its fellow Neighborhood Restaurant Group establishments, Tallula is celebrating the Olympics. Each of the six properties has adopted a country, and they are offering special food and beverage options that reflect that country’s cuisine. Get your “Olympic Passport” stamped at all six restaurants, and you earn a $50 NRG gift card for use at any of the six. You’ll also be entered into a drawing for three grand prizes during an outdoor celebration at Evening Star Cafe on Sunday. If you’re just getting started, you may have a tough time hitting all six in time to make the drawing (though it can certainly still be done!).
Of all the Olympic menu items, there was one in particular that caught our eye (okay, two if you count the poutine at ChurchKey). We’re suckers for a good pierogi, those Eastern European pockets of dough stuffed with delicious, hearty fare like potatoes. When we saw that Chef Barry Koslow and his crew at Tallula were taking them on, we knew where we’d be heading.
After the jump, I risk alienating my Russian-American family members with a startling confession.
Seriously, these were the pierogis of the gods. They were light. They were fork-tender. And they were filled with an inspired combination of whipped potatoes, smoked kielbasa and cheese. A cooling dip of sour cream, creme fraiche, fresh horseradish and green onions was on hand to temper the rich flavors. The texture was damn near perfect, with a light crisp where the dough appeared to have been pan-seared and a soft chew throughout. Served two to a plate for $4, they felt like a steal.
But we didn’t limit ourselves to the Olympic specials (though I did take advantage of the full Polish Hat Trick: a plate of the pierogis, a Zywiec lager and a shot of Belvedere vodka all for $15). We each ordered another appetizer to help round out our meals, and we shared a dessert.
After the big, savory flavors of the pierogi, Elizabeth wanted something a little bit on the little side. She ordered the smoky miso soup, which certainly lived up to its name. The broth had a depth usually not seen in miso soup, and the paste was joined in the broth by housemade noodles and an egg yolk that poached in the bowl. It was an impressive take on something that most sushi restaurants don’t even take that seriously.
I decided to pile on, chasing my kielbasa-stuffed pierogi with a garlic sausage patty served over fregula (pearl pasta) “risotto.” The fregula had an al dente bite, and of course it was tossed with bacon, truffle and fine herbs. Couple the bacon in the pasta, the garlic- and allspice-flavored sausage and the kielbasa in the pierogi, and I definitely experienced a wide range of Chef Koslow’s talents when it comes to plating pork.
We split a huckleberry almond cake that was still steaming when it reached our table, but we could have been just as happy if we had passed on dessert and went straight to the check. To soften the blow, the bill comes with a gift from the kitchen: a bite-sized doughnut with just the right amount of Nutella-like filling and a sweet glaze. Talk about saving the best for last…
Tallula’s focus on fresh, local and seasonal ingredients means that what you see on the menu this week will not be the same as what you saw when you were there in October. But the kitchen has a knack for turning out dishes that bring out the best in their components. Whatever the flavors of the week happen to be, we’ve always left satisfied.