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Cafe Tallulah

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Cafe Tallulah

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Address: 240 Columbus Ave (71st St)
City: New York, NY
Zip: 10023
Phone: 212-209-1055
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Map: Map
Cuisine: Wine Bars
2nd Cuisine:
Area: East 70s
Takeout: Yes
Delivery: Yes


The UWS is a busy place with families pushing strollers, shoppers and visitors to the American Museum of Natural History, New York Historical Society and Lincoln Center among other venues.  Get away from the thrum at wanna-be-French Café Tallulah, a bi-level bistro with a restaurant and bar upstairs and a cocktail lounge, bar and private party space underneath.  Drinks, which seem to be the most consistently enjoyable aspect of the place, are available in enormous variety.  The libations side of the biz is overseen by Dushan Zarc, a former employee of Employees Only. His staff creates cocktails like the New York Sour, Pink Panther and the Brigitte with pisco shaken with fresh raspberries, egg white, and crème de framboise as well as a large selection of draft and bottled beers although all on the menu are not always available. Many of the wines are French broken down confusingly both by type of grape and geography (why separate Bordeaux into Left and Right Bank?) with sections both for “Old World” and “United States.”

Blue Point oysters are a fine start to a meal, served on the half shell atop a metal platform for drama, priced at $1.25 each with a dish of vinegary mignonette and cocktail sauce that benefits from more horseradish which I had to ask for several times.  Other starters include various tartares--tuna, salmon or steak—each served with the appropriate accompaniments although all would benefit from a little time to get to room temp.   The tarte flambés boil down to flatbreads: The Classic topped with onions, crème fraiche, fontina and prosciutto; Roquefort with spiced apple puree and the Mushroom with goat cheese and truffle oil.  The mussels are on the tasteless side although the accompanying fries are fabulous; the lamb sausage sandwich with ratatouille and spicy mayo at $15 is a better choice –more original and far tastier.  The burger comes on a brioche; the duck a l’orange could be a lot crisper but the roast chicken with whipped potatoes and sautéed spinach is fine.

Service is varied; sometimes solicitous and helpful and sometimes almost non-existent.  We had to flag our waitress a few times at a very uncrowded pre-theater meal although when she turned up she was delightful.  The crowd is also uneven—the place can be jammed but, can also be peculiarly empty.

The physical space is a little cold despite the "charm" of the large zinc bar and pressed tin ceilings. The menu promises more than it delivers with portions on the small side.  Weekend brunch brings “share plates” i.e., charcuterie, cheeses and ham and cheddar croquettes that manage to be simultaneously gummy and tasteless. Desserts are classics (in description if not in taste) like profiteroles, a flourless chocolate cake with strawberry compote (perhaps a new, certainly not an old classic) and apple crisp with a not-very-French sounding cinnamon graham cracker crumble.  Tallulah is in an area rife with places to eat; it's a fine fallback but perhaps not an A1 choice.

Open daily Monday through Friday from11:30am-12am; Saturdays from 11am-12am and Sundays from 10am-12am.

Review By: Mari Gold