11 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10010; map); 212-889-0667; tablany.com
Setting: An ornate (some might say gaudy) decor benefits from daytime dining; sunlight pours in through the large windows
Compare to:Tamarind, Amma
The Deal: Two three-course lunch menus, $24.07 and $31 (each menu offers two selections for each course)
I am a big fan of Chef Floyd Cardoz's cooking at Tabla, the Danny Meyer-backed restaurant he has run for over a decade. He deftly combines seasonal American ingredients, often locally sourced, with French technique, Indian spices, and global influences. The result is a highly evolved fusion cuisine that comes at a correspondingly high price.
But dine at Tabla during lunch, and you can choose from two three course prix-fixe menus priced at $24.07 and $31; each menu offers two selections per course. The $31 menu features more up-market ingredients like cod and flank steak—but I couldn't resist the cheaper option, which I bet had just as much flavor.
A complimentary serving of spiced popcorn will put your taste buds in gear.
And a large puffy disk of sourdough naan bread, also included in the price, will warm your heart. All the breads are baked in-house and when they get deposited on your table they will be too hot to handle.
A mushroom soup had a silken broth, evocative of a consomme, but was slightly more viscous. It was spiked with tamarind and toasted coriander seeds.
A Nieman Ranch pork loin was roasted, imbuing it with a crispy skin while maintaining a juicy, slightly pink interior; it's served over beans and carrots dotted with flavorful morsels of Goan sausage.
Truth be told, I have never been the biggest fan of Nieman Ranch pork; I have never found it that flavorful. Nor did I here, its textural qualities and flawless cooking aside. Fortunately, the rest of the dish is packed with flavor: cumin, coriander and turmeric conspire to brighten the dish.
As if all that was not enough, a mango sundae comes with three generous scoops of ice cream, drizzled with a spiced caramel sauce over a savory brown butter crumble, droplets of meringue adding crunch.
I cannot recommend the lunch at Tabla highly enough. You are getting a good part of the full Tabla experience at a fraction of the price. The pork loin alone costs $24 a la carte—from that perspective, $.07 more gets you soup, bread, and dessert. But beyond the sheer amount of food one is getting, it is the flavors that Cardoz packs into every bite that makes the experience so compelling.