Table Talk: Bistro Tallulah
By Blaze Marshall
Monday, April 29, 2013
The North Country area is blessed with several fine dining establishments. Those of us who love to go out to dinner whet our appetites each time we drive by one of these restaurants, catch a glimpse of all the cars in their lot, and oft-times wish we were there.
I have been telling my followers “Don’t miss Bistro Tallulah” on Ridge Street in Glens Falls ever since it opened in 2007. The small storefront bistro that once was Harold’s Country Kitchen is tucked in between Scoville Jewelers and City Hall.
If you’ve been there, you’ll surely remember it as a small, casual, bustling bistro with New Orleans themed paintings, an open kitchen, small bar and absolutely delightful food. A glimpse into the kitchen and of the dishes leaving evoke sights, smells and sounds of one busy, successful spot. Chef Shawn Whalen will likely be there, dutifully checking every dish and periodically peering out into the restaurant making sure all is right.
Companion and I made a reservation for 8pm on a busy Saturday. Upon entering, nary a seat was to be found, but a hostess reassured us a table for two would be ready in minutes. Folks were dining at the tiny bar, newcomers were entering and I had my doubts if ‘ready in minutes’ would prove true.
Nevertheless, in less time than it took the bartender to open a bottle of Chateau St. Jean Fume Blanc 2007, we were shown to a corner table newly set with a paper covering and wrapped silverware.
Our waiter, Bill, brought our wine bucket to the table with fresh glasses, ice water and the Bistro’s French bread with olive oil for dipping. From memory he recited daily specials, much too fast for me to record, yet deftly included every ingredient and accompaniment.
Chef Whalen’s menu is innovative, creative and sprinkled with his New Orleans experience gained while at Martin’s Wine Cellar, and the world famous Brennan’s. You know, the “Breakfast at Brennan’s” Restaurant. Most of Chef Whalen’s salads and entrees come in a choice of large and small plates.
Tonight’s soups were a roasted chicken and andouille sausage gumbo and a smoked cheddar and ale bisque with rye croutons. Salads included a butter head lettuce and roasted beet with toasted pecans, roasted fennel, arugula goat cheese, red onion and sherry pomegranate molasses vinaigrette. No iceberg lettuce here!
Starters consisted of shrimp ‘n grits with jumbo shrimp sautéed with smoked sausage tossed in a southern etouffee sauce over creamy cheddar grits.
You can opt for a bar-b-que pulled pork sandwich with a mango BBQ sauce, as well as an 8 oz. Angus burger, grilled cheese Braeton roasted asparagus with wild mushrooms, gruyere and brie cheese on a cracked pepper parmesan bread.
Bill also mentioned two of the Bistro’s specialties; macaroni and cheese bowl and an 8 oz. lamb burger. This is a nice thoughtful touch as many patrons do not want an entire meal.
Entrée choices, all explained in detail on the menu, range from a whole roasted suckling pig, pulled and re-crisped atop sweet potato puree to PEI mussels sautéed with sun dried tomato Italian sausage and artichoke hearts. Other interesting choices include a char-grilled White Marble Farm’s pork chop, herb crusted sweet breads, duck two ways and a seafood cioppino with shrimp, scallops, mussels and salmon in a saffron tomato broth.
Yours Truly opened with a platter of duck liver and port wine pate, sliced, with cornichons, pepper jelly pickled red onions, whole grain mustard and crostini. Fit for a king and enough to feed his court.
Companion had the house salad with fresh mixed greens, raisins, Maytag bleu cheese, roasted pecans and delightful balsamic pepper jelly vinaigrette.
Many of the Bistro’s dishes are served with their specialty fries. Their reputation had preceded our visit and I almost subbed my entrée accompaniments to try them, but Bill must have read my mind, as he delivered a small bowl to our table to bridge the gap between our apps and entrees. The bowl had about a dozen, hand cut, skin-on potato fries, sprinkled with cheese, salted, with some wonderful roasted garlic aioli for dipping. A nice garlic flavored mayo texture sauce on the side. Wow!! All I can say is Wow!! Chef Whalen should never give that one away.
In the meantime, Companion was raving about her salmon; pan roasted, rare, with oyster mushrooms, Yukon gold puree, roasted baby carrots and asparagus, topped with pine nuts and an arugula citrus salad. Twice she showed me the pink center, hinting and asking for my future consideration as a home chef. I took the hint in good faith!
Now, for me, I chose pork cheeks! That’s right, pork cheeks. Succulent, fork tender, juicy pork tenderloins that come from, you guessed it, the cheeks of the pig. I probably will never be satisfied again with regular pork tenderloin after having had this delectable cut.
They were presented with pan fried fingerling potatoes, caramelized onions and baby carrots as well as some of that wonderful garlic mayo aioli.
After all this, we shared a white chocolate bread pudding with praline whiskey sauce and Cooper’s Cave vanilla ice cream. Yours Truly knew that “I’m stuffed” would emanate from Companion several times on our way home; we still could not resist this end to our meal.
Ordinary, run-of-the-mill is not found among any of Bistro Tallulah’s offerings. From the fries to their salads to their pork cheeks, it’s no wonder diners were still pouring through the door as we exited.
Across the street, in contrast, the former “Black Watch” now sits vacant, out of business. A further testament to Chef Whalen, our waiter Bill, the ambiance and absolutely outstanding menu choices offered at Bistro Tallulah.
If you have been there, I do not have to encourage you to go back, but if you have yet to visit the Bistro, call ahead, make a reservation, and enjoy the “Wow” of dining out in the North Country.