after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

a cross between Tiffin and a night club …

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t says:  g and I love Indian food – or at least – we think we do.  It all started when we first had chicken korma at Tamber’s/”Nifty Fifties” in Baltimore.  While probably not the most authentic example of Indian food, we were hooked, and ate there (or did take-out) quite frequently.  Now that we live in Philadelphia, our favorites for Indian are Ekta and Tiffin, both of which deliver (of which Ekta is probably the better of the two).  As far as Indian restaurants go, however, we just haven’t quite found one we like (although I have to confess that we haven’t been to many).  Bindi has long since closed (the owners citing lack of interest in Indian food as the primary cause) despite smn and dz liking it – sorry guys!  So now enter Tashan, an upscale Indian dining venue owned by the same guy in charge of Tiffin.  His shtick: “modern Indian cuisine”.  His location: some building on Broad south of South street.  His menu: kind of pricey.  Nevertheless, at least one person likes it (although I disprove of the accusatory tone he adopts in his post).  Fortunately, kp also felt that the food was good, having been there for multiple happy hours.  We figured, “well, kp is Indian, and he cooks extremely well, so if he says it’s good, then it’s gotta be good” … but we still just never got around to it … until now: I saw that Mondays are BYO nights at Tashan.  Boom.  Done.  We made a reservation (even though the hostess initially messed up and denied BYO Mondays – she and her manager both called back to confirm its existence) and ventured to Bella Vista (sadly it wasn’t an FTC meeting, as a and v were busy preparing for a trip) …

June 2012, Monday Dinner, Party of 3.  We’ll try to keep it short.  First, the setting: it’s kind of huge!  There’s a ton of space – this is no small BYO for sure.  It’s also evident that someone spent a lot of money, time, and effort trying really really hard to make this place cool/hip.  The result is a kind of like what would happen if you put a restaurant in a space that was meant for a night club.  It’s just trying so hard to be cool, but to be honest, it’s not like anything in there is actually cool – and that’s coming from me, who is pretty much a sucker for anything sleek/modern (that, and I still think that Adidas samba sneakers are cool).  Sorry Tashan, I just don’t think that all of those renovations were worth it …

The service could also use some improvement.  The waiter was very well-mannered and pleasant, but his actual serving performance was straight-up bad.  He’d say that he was bringing wine glasses but not bring them until 10-15 minutes later.  He’d say that he was bringing the wine, but not until 10-15 minutes later.  The pacing of the meal was all over the place (25 minutes before our orders were even taken, and then a bizarre 25 minute gap after apps).  At least he had a winning smile to go along with his enthusiasm for “his favorite dishes” when we asked his opinion.  My advice: is you’re going to say you’re going to do something, then actually do it.

And now on to the real matter at hand: the food.  I can say that everything was at least “good” … which isn’t bad (actually, I’d say that every dish but one was “very good”)!  Indian food can be very hit-or-miss for me depending on the level of spice and the level of cream/fat in the dishes.  To be blunt – I’m not a fan of dishes so spicy that I can’t taste anything or dishes so rich that my tongue can’t clear the hydrophobic coat.  Tashan had none of those problems.

The best dish of the night was probably the lamb “lollipops” (that’s our name for them, not Tashan’s):

it doesn’t look appetizing in the photo, but trust me – it’s ridiculous

The lamb was impossibly tender and smothered in a flavorful combo of spices that I’m sure I’ll never be able to parse.  The “green stuff” was a lively addition.  (Actually, I went so far as to even say out loud, “damn, there’s just no way I could do this at home!”  kp smiled, but didn’t say much.  This was kp being coy.  I called him out on it, asking him directly if he could cook a lamb like this.  He pretended to think for a few seconds before admitting that he was sure that he could.  Result: FTC at kp’s before the summer is up – Battle Rack of Lamb.  Stay tuned!)  Nevertheless, the three of us enjoyed our lamb, deciding that they are a must-order for the future.

Butter Chicken and Saag Paneer!

When g and I try a new place for Indian, we stick with some basics to really test ’em.  Enter the Butter Chicken and Saag Paneer you see above.  We’ve had these dishes from Ekta and Tiffin (as noted in the face-off linked to above), ultimately deciding that Ekta was the winner.  I have to say that Tashan’s are probably tied with Ekta.  They’re not as boldly flavored as Ekta’s, but really allow the underlying components to stand out – there’s a certain amount of subtlety there that kept me coming back for more.  If you want spice and wiz-bang, stick with Ekta, but if you want to taste something a little more elegant (as “elegant” as spinach/paneer or tomato are), go for Tashan.

We did try other dishes (the sausage was fantastic! – but very spicy), which showed us that chef knows how to cook.  The only miss of the evening was the goat cheese taftaan – it was interesting, but not in a good way, rather, an “overly fussy, why is this so hard to eat, and why does it taste like the ingredients don’t really jive together” way.  I’d avoid it in future outings.

Ultimately, the food is a nice mix of traditional Indian and not-so-traditional Indian, with both approaches yielding delicious dishes.  As a result, I think that Sheehan was right: Tashan is definitely one of the best restaurants that we’re not going to (along with Cochon).  However, unlike Cochon, Tashan has real, legitimate reasons for people to not want to go (while we still can’t figure out why Cochon isn’t getting as much love as it used to) …  Tashan’s service needs some help.  Furthermore, we foresee that the location is going to be a problem, indeed.  Passers-by in that neighborhood aren’t exactly the type to drop that kind of money (i.e. it’s not Rittenhouse), which means that they’d probably like to be a destination dining establishment – but do they have the chops for that?  I think of the places that we go out of our way to go, and I realize that Tashan just doesn’t have the outrageous food like Bibou/Fond, the friendliness and ridiculous desserts/cheese of Talula’s Garden, the intimate BYO feel (and BYO price-tag) of Melograno/Mercato/Modo Mio.  And, unlike Jamonera and Barbuzzo, this atmosphere is actually not hip/cool, no matter how many dark interior finishes you put in there.  So what’s it gonna do?  kp is going to keep on going for happy hour, hoping that his efforts alone can keep them from going under.  As for me, I’ll go if other suggest it, but I wasn’t so blown away that I’m rushing back (well – maybe on a BYO night …).  I hope for their sake that they find something that keeps them afloat – some kind of off-the-hook dish (the lamb was good, but it’s not Bibou pig’s foot) or special dining events or something.  We wish them the best of luck, though – it would be tough for Philly to lose yet another “upscale Indian” place.

mch says: Ditto on Tashan. Service was “meh”. We were definitely impressed by some of the appetizers. The quail was tasty and unexpected since not traditionally what I think of as Indian. Main courses to us seemed fine – but not necessarily better than a neighborhood Indian place. If we went back, we might just order appetizers and naan. We’ll probably go back to try it again at some point.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

19 June 2012 at 10:33pm

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