Sometimes you just need to leave it to the chef. You would never tell a painter how to capture a sunset, or a composer how to evoke uplifting joy. No less an artist, the expert chef crafts a tasting menu so that one course follows another in gustatory harmony.
A tasting menu gives a chef the chance to strut his stuff—showcasing his imagination and genius as well as his technical skill. At its best, it is a contract between diner and chef—one promises an open mind, the other a bravura performance. When the bargain works, it’s a transcendent experience for everyone.
Dave Tallent has true chef’s hands—big, capable, scarred with innumerable burns and cuts.
He has a chef’s mind too, one that is constantly musing about food, wondering how this will taste with that, what old technique he can use in a new way. Creations like lamb bacon and sunchoke vichyssoise result. You peek into that mind when you order the tasting menu at Restaurant Tallent.
At Tallent, the tasting menu is a five-course meal based on market ingredients and the chef—s whim. He says, “It allows me to push the envelope a little bit, to play with flavor construction, to get outside of the box.” It is also, he admits, a chance to show off. Recently, with friends to impress and some money to burn, we put him to the test. Making our reservation weeks in advance, the only instruction we sent to the kitchen was: “Knock our socks off, Chef.” Then we marked our calendars and began to get hungry.
Knowing our guests were food professionals, Tallent was nervous. He planned, he revised, he tinkered. By the night of the dinner the menu had grown to more than ten courses, each paired with wine.
It turns out you can’t get hungry enough for a double-digit tasting menu. The dishes rolled out in exquisite order, teasing at first, light and enticing—different salads (with truffles, asparagus, quail eggs), then silky foie gras (on toasted banana bread with rhubarb jam), and cold creamy soup. Then they got richer, more complex with fish (seared scallops and goat cheese ravioli, and charmoula tuna with black rice and bok choy). A pause for sorbet, sparkling with basil and citrus, and the meal gathered depth with a lamb and a cheese course. Then dessert, and dessert, and dessert again.
At the end of a long evening, Chef came up to take a well-earned bow, his face glowing with the heat of the kitchen and the warmth of our approval. For our part, we were stunned into drowsy contentment, certain we would never be hungry again.
Restaurant Tallent offers a five-course tasting menu Monday through Thursday for $55; wine pairings, $25.