Its 9pm on a Monday and I had just finished a long day of pouring over press theories in authoritarian governments and tutoring the football team. My brain was shot and I was suppose to meet a friend for a well needed vodka tonic at Tabu, the local gay sports bars on 12th and Locust.
The place was pretty crowded for a Monday night with people lining the bars watching football/basketball/baseball/I don’t know pick one, if it was up to me they be playing Family Guy on the big screen. I walked up to the bar about to crabbily demand some liquid sustenance when a tiny rumble escaped my belly. I thought to myself, I probably don’t need the empty calories anyways and asked if the kitchen was still opened.
Lo and behold, the kitchen was opened till 10pm and it was 930pm. I took a seat at the back and eyed a list of burger, nachos and chicken fingers. Urgh, maybe that vodka tonic was a better caloric option. Then, I look down at their salad list. Now normally I am not very excited about salads (balsamic= boring) but if I ate a hoagie right now I would go to bed feeling like a pageant cow so I opt for the Tabu salad with grilled chicken instead($6.95 + $3 for the chicken(Got to have that protein)).
Thank God, I managed to complete that thought before the server came because when he did I must have slurred like a stroke victim for a few seconds as he took my order. (Read: OMFG! If there was God’s signature on a face it would be this man) I will not dribble on any further because I can easily fill in two pages about the beauty of this fine specimen and that’s for another blog.
The salad came in a good size portion and originally called for pomegranate vinaigrette but I opt for the light Thai vinaigrette instead and it blended seamlessly with the mixed greens grilled chicken and cashew nuts. The chicken was juicy and tender and the hidden julienne green apples that I found gave the salad that wonderful sour crunch. Each bite resurrected the brain cells I had lost during my star struck coma and I feel full and not stuffed at the end of the meal. Although I would have like some stuffing… Ok I have to stop.
Is your server single?
10/5 for the server
$7 for three meatballs?! What are you smoking Marabella?! Puff, puff, and pass please! I thought
I can't decide whether it should oink or moo.
that maybe it was a joke but sure enough the guy in front of me was handed a sad looking little white plastic bowl with sure enough three meatballs and some sauce. This was going to be challenging. I had wandered into the new addition to Walnut Street because it was not too far away from Café Twelve where I do most of my work and wanted something quick, there was barely anyone there at 1pm, and filling which was the challenge because it looked like it was going to be expensive. (read: broke college student) The standard bowl was three meatballs for $7 and it you wanted pasta or a side it was going to cost you an extra $4, each. Hell, no.
So in the end, I opted for the compromise which was the pasta dinner for $9 which came with 2 meatballs and a choice of sauce and pasta. The lady behind the counter listed what I thought would be my choice of meatballs, chicken, beef, pork and veal but instead told me the meal came with a blend of all four meats. Interesting.
My bowl came flanked by two pieces of what I assumed to be garlic toast but really was toast, dry and brittle, with the thought of garlic. The generous serving of sauce on the other hand/spoon was fantastic, rich and savory; the deep red color stood out against the brown whole wheat penne and left a definite garlic tomato taste in my mouth that was accented by the sharp taste of locatelli cheese, a hard salty Italian cheese.
The meatballs on the other hand were rather confusing and the blend of the meats did not sit well with me as they left me guessing as to what they should taste like. As they say too many chefs spoil the broth and it was unfortunate that the highlight of Marabella’s Meatballs were not her meatballs.
I’ll get my people to call your people?
First impressions are kind of important, and at Audrey Claire their first impression matched the unseasonably lukewarm November weather. Reservations are a must for dinner, reminded with a confirmatory call at 4pm in the midst of my Thanksgiving hangover recovery nap, and we arrived early at 650pm for our 7pm reservation. However by 710pm we were still not yet seated, waiting on another table to order and finish their desserts. Thankfully, Food & Friends across the street on 20th and Spruce offered some relief from the bustling full house corner restaurant and I picked up two bottles of Kriek, a Belgium cherry beer, for the table.
By 720pm, we were seated comfortably near the back of the restaurant and left to ponder over the menu. Service was prompt and the restaurant was dressed in straw snowflakes and painted in pleasant pastel colors. However, the open kitchen in addition to a small packed space made conversation and the discussion of the menu difficult.
I had spied a beet salad on several tables on my way in and started with the popular choice. The beets came accompanied with mashed pumpkin and warm goat cheese ($8). The sweet crimson beets stood out against the creamy amber pumpkin and blend well with the topping of white goat cheese. The dish was a visual feast and got approving nods from my sister across the table. I also tried some of her grilled tiger shrimp and roasted sweet potatoes with baby arugula ($13) and although the shrimp was fresh it was disappointingly lackluster in flavor.
The main course was crispy shallot crusted lemon sole with crispy sage and caper butter ($21). The nicely browned shallots were accented by a sharp zesty lemon flavor that really highlighted the fish. My only complaint would be that they overdid it with the olive oil. The fish was practically swimming in it and sat rather heavily in my stomach by the end of the meal.
This however did not deter me from dessert. I contemplated between a classic, a warm chocolate cake, and a more unusual choice, a lemon olive oil cake. Curiosity won out and the petite dish came dressed with fresh strawberries and cream. The moment my spoon hit the cake, the first thing I noticed was how thick it was and its light green texture reminded me of the rich coconut based pastries of my hometown Singapore. The olive oil was evident but I wished the lemon would have come further into the foreground instead of playing a faint supporting role that barely registered on my tongue. By the time I was done, it just added to the already heavy sinking feeling in my stomach. At least with all the olive oil I have eaten tonight my hair will be shiner.
I was not impressed but let’s still remain friends.