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Table Talk: Bistro Tallulah

By Buzz Lamb

Monday, October 20, 2014

I have sung the praises of Chef Shawn Whalen’s Bistro three times in the past.  Nestled in downtown Glens Falls, this tiny storefront restaurant packs them in year-round. And why not!

The atmosphere is casual, the cuisine is eclectic, creative, elegantly prepared and served, influenced by Spanish, French and New Orleans traditions. The waitstaff is remarkably professional and efficient and the food outstanding.

So, how can a place like this get better?  It did!  Chef-owner Whalen has modernized the bar, extended his craft beer selections on tap and expanded his diverse wine list.

No less than twelve unique beers on tap, headlined by Long Trail IPA, Breckenridge Vanilla Porter, Green Flash “Le Freak” and Butternuts Porkslap Farmhouse.  You can pick a flight of three if you wish, but there are another dozen or more in bottles and cans.  So beer drinkers rejoice!  Tonight I have one of those very particular craft beer guys with me.

For the uninitiated, Bistro Tallulah is located almost next to the Glens Falls City Hall.  In season, several tables sit outside on the sidewalk and the inside is very casual with a row of wooden benches lining one wall for seating. There is an open kitchen so Shawn can look out into the crowd and the bar is open to the dining area.  The atmosphere can be loud and crowded, especially on weekends but that’s really a testament to its popularity among diners of all ages and pocketbooks.

Chef Whalen’s ever changing menu features two soups; roasted chicken andouille gumbo and a smoked cheddar and ale bisque. Additional starters include herb crusted veal sweetbreads, Southern fried pork croquettes topped with a sunnyside egg as well as many other unique offerings.

Regardless of what you order, try the house made frites that come with a side of roasted garlic aioli.  Your proclaimed diet is worth skipping for one night in order to try the Bistro’s frites.

Entrees tonight included an 8oz. Angus burger with bleu cheese, a bbq pork sandwich with mango chipotle and a grilled cheese with roasted asparagus, wild mushrooms and brie on a cracked pepper parmesan roll.  But those are for the less adventurous folks!

Also offered is pulled and re-crisped whole roasted suckling pig served atop sweet potato puree.  Duck two ways; a pan roasted breast and a crispy leg confit, a hanger steak and frites with grilled asparagus as well as pan seared scallops served atop shrimp, Spanish chorizo and white bean ragu.  Bistro Tallulah also offers braised organic chicken with tomato, fennel and imported olives as well as artichoke, chorizo and seafood cioppino that includes salmon, no less.

Craft beer Bob sipped a pint of Breckenridge Vanilla Porter; a chocolate nut flavored, creamy vanilla beer from Colorado, while Brian out waiter detailed several nightly specials from memory including a catfish sandwich, pork porterhouse, Ahi Tuna and a 12 oz. hanger steak. Brian not only detailed the entrees but all the ingredients as well.  Remarkable!

Constant Companion and Ms. Golfer opened with the Bistro’s house salad that consisted of fresh mixed greens, golden raisins and bleu cheese with toasted pecans and dressed with delightful balsamic pepper jelly vinaigrette.

I passed on my usual duck liver and port wine pate for a wonderful pan crisped duck confit that was served atop a wild mushroom leek and blue cheese risotto. A fall off the bone leg and thigh finished with garlic veal au jus. It could have easily been my main dish.

Craft Beer Bob stepped up to the plate with a full order of seafood cioppino that was loaded with shrimp, scallops, mussels and salmon in a saffron tomato broth served over creamy parmesan polenta. Bits of artichoke heart, chorizo sausage, peas and peppers kicked up the dish more than a notch!

Constant Companion chose a generous filet of salmon flavored with coriander, grilled and served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and wilted spinach. A wonderful citrus tarragon slaw was an added bonus.

Ms. Golfer enjoyed one of the evening’s specials, Ahi tuna. It came a bit overdone, a rare disappointment from Chef Whalen’s kitchen.

I could not resist the Southern Fried Chicken with grits.  A small plate was enough and consisted of a leg and thigh.  It was perfectly seasoned, lightly breaded, and pan-fried atop cheddar cheese grits.  This is about as good as it gets.

In the end we had to pass on some great desserts that feature an outstanding bread pudding laced with whisky, served piping hot. It is one of my favorites yet only a memory on this trip.

During our entire visit on a Wednesday night the dining room was full, including two tables outside on the sidewalk as well.  Brian never failed to check on our dishes, desires and water.

On the way out I stopped to glance into the open kitchen where Chef Whalen was performing like the conductor of a great symphony orchestra.  He never missed a beat while working with four sauté pans on the fire, deftly tossing ingredients into each one creating his culinary magic for the awaiting diners to enjoy.

Remarkable! Hard work!  A great chef completing another great performance in an outstanding bistro.

26 Ridge St., Glens Falls, 793-2004, open Tues. – Sat. 5pm.  Closed Sun. & Mon.

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