Table Talk: Bistro Tallulah
By Blaze Marshall
Thursday, January 13, 2011
I believe most areas residents are anxiously awaiting the return of downtown Glens Falls as a destination. The city labeled ‘Hometown U.S.A.’ is certainly showing signs of moving in that direction with a new streetscape, many interesting construction projects, some wonderful new retail stores and some great dining options.
Downtown revitalization experts will tell you that above all, you need residents in place above the retail, living in or near the main street and within walking distance of all the various venues a city can offer. We all want to walk to shop, go to a theatre, stroll in a park, mingle with friends or dine out.
Enter Bistro Tallulah!
This is another notch in the ladder of successful endeavors to ignite this great city. Shaun Whalen, after spending several years in New Orleans at Martin’s Wine Cellar and Brennans, returned with his family and opened this storefront bistro. Located in the former site of Harold’s Country Kitchen and Monahan and Chase Caterers, it has been the buzz around town since its opening on Oct. 3, 2007.
First Lady and I, along with Super Dan and Princess, left the variety of offerings at the annual Festival of Trees to see what this new dining choice was all about. It was the night before Thanksgiving and we never expected the unexpected.
Bistro Tallulah was jumpin’. Three deep at a bar with no license (BYOB) and all tables filled, save ours due to making a reservation. Bottles of wine were at every setting. Acquaintances from Lake George, South Glens Falls, Bolton, Corinth and yes, even The City were out celebrating the eve of this great family holiday.
The bistro seats about 65 in a rather simple setting with walls decorated nicely with Frank Flores oil paintings ala New Orleans. An original tin ceiling, an eight stool bar and an open kitchen makes for a rather interesting ambiance.
We drew Bri (for Briannon) as our waitress. There since opening, she was knowledgeable, efficient, friendly and bubbly to boot. A perfect fit. She uncorked our bottles of wine and immediately brought ginger ale to Super Dan who always stashes nips of Jack Daniels in his pocket whenever we frequent a BYOB establishment. We toasted the holiday with a wonderful bottle of Powers Merlot 2004 from the Columbia Valley of Washington State. A delicious, balanced red chosen by Rob, the owner of Adirondack Wine Merchants located on Quaker Road. Score one for him.
The Bistro menu is nothing short of fabulous, offering both small and large plates of just about all choices. Even a diner who can not decide between entrees may sample two choices for the price of one.
There is a crispy duck confit and a dry pack scallop salad, butterhead lettuce and roasted beet salad, an andouille sausage gumbo and a roasted butternut squash and shrimp bisque for starters.
Entrée choices include a whole roasted suckling pig, pulled and re-crisped to order, pan roasted salmon, duck two ways, a sea salt crusted organic chicken breast and an interesting dish of sautéed mussels with garlic, sun dried tomatoes and arugula. All plates, large or small, come with a combo of accompaniments.
Bri and her partner Courtney delivered Rock Hill French bread, sliced and warm, to dip in a wonderful combination of olive oil and wine vinaigrette. All four of us chose the house salad of baby mixed greens, golden raisins, blue cheese, toasted pecans and a delightful balsamic pepper jelly vinaigrette dressing.
Super Dan chose a hanger steak, seared and thinly sliced, sided with homemade fries, roasted asparagus with gorgonzola demi glace and roasted aioli. This big plate was more than generous offering.
Princess ruled her kingdom in joy with a small plate of two huge dry pack scallops expertly pan seared to retain their moistness and sided with butternut squash, broccoli rabe and pearl onions. All anointed with a smoked bacon and mustard jus.
First Lady and I ordered and shared two small plates. One being of the same scallops above and the other, Chef Whalen’s Coq Au Vin. An absolutely scrumptious braised half of organic chicken with bacon lardons, red wine, chipollini onions atop a creamy leek risotto and baby veggie medley. All fresh, crispy and picture perfect. A wonderful entrée expertly prepared with the chicken de-boned and moist.
Bri informed us that Chef Whalen’s Aunt Judy makes the desserts. The ladies eyes popped out at the offerings of crispy white chocolate bread pudding, warm apple cider doughnuts with brandied espresso crème anglaise and vanilla ice cream, Tiramisu and a Coopers Cave ice cream trilogy.
We all split the warm bread pudding served with a praline whiskey sauce and a chocolate pecan turtle laced with bourbon. Were we in downtown Glens Falls or on Bourbon Street in New Orleans?
We finished our meals, our wine and also enjoyed chatting with our adjoining table. A couple that includes one of the area’s top chefs from a great Italian restaurant in South Glens Falls. They too were experiencing Bistro Tallulah for the first time. Their expert opinions agreed with ours; interesting, innovative and above all, delicious.
Priced right, with a choice of small plates or large, Bistro Tallulah is one of the best new entrees on the restaurant scene. Judging by the crowd and the unpretentious way that Chef Whalen has chosen to serve extraordinary food, this bistro can’t miss.
For all of us who truly enjoy dining out, Bistro Tallulah offers us another reason to give thanks during this wonderful holiday season.
Peace, health and happiness to all. Bon Appetit!