Tarbell’s touts a big name but left me hungry for more

I’ve been wanting to go to Tarbell’s for awhile now, since it’s such a greatly reviewed local restaurant, and because head chef Mark Tarbell also won Iron Chef America, when he battled Cat Cora with the secret ingredient of apple. (His winning dessert from the show is on the menu.)

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I went there last night, and I’m disappointed I wasn’t completely wowed by the place, but the friendly and knowledgeable staff was definitely appreciated.

The restaurant’s decor isn’t particularly stunning. The tables do have linens on them, but the atmosphere was pretty plain, save for a few brightly colored paintings. The view outside is of a parking lot, so while the restaurant looks cool from the outside with its window walls, it’s not fun to look at cars on cement while you’re eating.

The crowd skewed older, middle-age and above. Besides a couple kids with families, I might have been the youngest person dining there, which seemed sort of weird. It’s definitely a place I’d rather go when I’m middle-aged and have savings to spend, rather than head there now.

Food-wise, I was impressed with the abundance of locally grown ingredients. That’s a really great thing to have in a restaurant, so it was really respectable, but the food just wasn’t spectacular like I had hoped.

The salad I started with, Maya’s Field Greens ($9), had fennel, carrots and an amazing carrot vinaigrette (I left the beets off my salad.) It was really heavy on the greens (I sort of felt like a rabbit as I ate it), but because they tasted so fresh, it made up for the lack of diversity in the salad. And the dressing was so delicious, I would prefer it over ranch–and that’s a big deal for me.

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For my entree, I had housemade fettuccine, with a spinach pesto sauce, squash, caramelized onions and goat cheese ($19). While the sauce was great, and I really enjoyed the goat cheese flavor, I wasn’t as enthused with the consistency of the pasta. The strips were so thin, it almost melted together. It was difficult to twirl on my fork and a little messy to eat. I did like the combination of so many flavors, though.

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We also had crispy chickpeas ($4), which were very interesting. I prefer regular chickpeas to these crispy ones, but they were seasoned well with parmesan, olive oil and parsley and tasted even better when I added them to my pasta. I just wouldn’t order them to eat them alone again.

My favorite part of the meal, besides the tasty bottle of red wine we had from the massive wine list, was the dessert. We had chocolate mousse ($9), which was thick and creamy and topped with tasty whipped cream.

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The dessert wasn’t enough to make me want to come back any time soon. I feel like I could get better farm-to-table food at chicer places for less money (see St. Francis). Maybe I’ll try Tarbell’s out again, but it probably won’t be until I’m way older.

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