Tallulah on Thames: An Artistic Journey

BY MEREDITH MASON
Magazine Feature Writing Class: November 5, 2013

I quickened my pace as I walked down Thames Street, dragging my best girlfriend who had fallen behind. We stopped abruptly outside of the restaurant, peering in the large glass windows, while simultaneously trying to figure out how to enter our chosen destination. I swung open what appeared to be a side door and headed into the warm entryway. The cramped foyer looked more like a room leading into an ancient Newport apartment than a waiting room for a gourmet restaurant. Suddenly, the door to my left flew open, and we heard, “Welcome to Tallulah.”

My friend and I were seated promptly thanks to the reservation I had made one day prior. I was ecstatic when I listened to my voicemail and heard that we had received the last reservation at Tallulah on Thames for Newport Restaurant Week. Although the website says, “reservations encouraged,” they appeared to be absolutely necessary once we stepped inside the crowded, ten table dining room.

I was struck with an overwhelming feeling of relaxation upon taking our seats. White tin walls, warm hardwood floors, crisp linins and mismatched chandeliers provided a sense of elegance, while a large bookshelf outlining the open kitchen created a sense of home. My creaky wooden chair felt like an antique that belonged in my grandmother’s Cape house.

Our menus were presented on clipboards and listed the complex, three-course pre-fix menu drawn up specifically for Newport Restaurant Week. Many of the descriptions were unfamiliar, but our informative waitress told us everything we needed to know about the night’s offerings. She also suggested individual glasses of wine to pair with each of our meals.

Quickly after we placed our order, the bread came. As the waitress placed the individual, steaming dinner roll on our side plates, she informed us that the bread that night had been delivered from Hyannis and the butter was from a farm in Vermont. For each additional course that followed, she told us what farm and location our food was from. Tallulah takes pride in serving only fresh, organic and local produce to its customers.

As we sat and waited for our first course to be delivered, it became apparent that Tallulah was not going to rush us out of their restaurant. The dining room music switched from Frank Sinatra to Van Morrison, a reminder that we should maintain our relaxation in the fine dining room.

Two servers presented our appetizers simultaneously while we starred in awe of the artistic creations that were placed in front of us. My organic greens were neatly tucked together and looked like tumbleweed that was about to be swept up off my plate. Curls of pear and squash decorated the greens and droplets of dressing looked like the beginning of a Pollack painting.

The bitter taste of the greens were balanced out with a sherry vinaigrette that provided a sweet and salty after taste. The greens smelled like freshly cut grass, a reminder of their organic origins.

My friend ordered the sunchoke soup that was poured for her right at the table. Although I had never heard of sunchoke before my arrival at Tallulah, the hot soup quickly warmed my chest and tasted like an artichoke with the texture of sunflower seeds.

Just when I started to wonder when our entrees would appear, two more servers placed down giant circular plates that framed our dinners like fine art. Truffled ferro and fall vegetables accompanied my organic chicken breast, while my friend’s stuffed pasta looked like an autumn wreath.

As a bit into my chicken breast, I was overwhelmed by the smoky flavor of the perfectly cooked meat. The rich truffled ferro tasted like a creamy risotto as the taste lingered on my tongue and I went in for another bite. Carrots, parsnips and brussel sprouts provided a balance to the chicken and ferro.
Just when I though my meal could not get any better, my friend passed over her plate to let me try a bite of her pasta. The plump noodles stuffed with Parmesan and mushrooms were covered in a very light cream sauce with crispy shitakes. It is rare when I try two entrees and can say that I enjoyed them both equally.

Although we did not vocalize our inner thoughts, I knew we were both thinking the same thing: how were we going to eat dessert? This quickly vanished when we both bit into the delicate pumpkin panna cotta. The smooth pumpkin was decorated with maple cream and hazelnut while providing the perfect amount of sweet. My cheese plate was presented on a black slate and had garnishes of honeycomb, apple-jam and almonds. Slowly, the cheese disappeared from my plate as we bickered over which one we thought was best.

As I looked around the room after taking my last bite of cheese, I realized that the service of our waitress and the entire Tallulah staff was what made our night simply amazing. The front of house manager not only asked us about the dinner, but stayed and chatted with us for several minutes. Our special girls night was a regal experience created by the artists bustling in the kitchen and the service experts at the front of the house.

Name: Tallulah on Thames
Address: 464 Thames Street, Newport RI 02840
Website: http://www.tallulahonthames.com
Phone number: 401.849.2433
Hours of operation: Wednesday-Sunday 5:30PM
Reservations: Highly recommended
Credit Cards: Yes
Parking: Street parking, taxi suggested during seasonal months

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