During a recent evening at Talula’s Table, I enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen and experience first hand the mechanics and energy that go into the preparation and presentation of the market's private dinners. For several years, I’d watched Bryan Sikora and his crew toil in absurdly tiny kitchen quarters at Django, yet still manage to turn out some of the best food served in Philadelphia. It’s now a pleasure to see him at work in a space that’s easily twenty times as large, and in the more relaxed environment made possible by serving a tasting menu to only one group of 8-12 each night. It’s a near ideal setting: less stress, more control over pacing, and more room for creativity, experimentation and à la minute preparations. It’s a venue that has encouraged the soulful depth of flavor he and Aimee Olexy had expressed at Django to continue yet also to mature into a more complete and refined personal expression. Best of all, it’s a space that allows for that all too rare marriage of work, passion and fun.
Along the way, I managed to snap a few pictures and was even drafted into doing a little prep work.
Bryan and line cook Luke Boland set the stage for course one: Venison Carpaccio.
Spot the broken yolk? That was my handiwork and, rightfully, my portion.
A chef enjoys the spoils. Sweetbreads anyone?
When plating for ten, eight hands are better than four. Front of the house staff Rosali Middleman and Beth Erisman join Bryan and Luke on the line.
The evening's menu (design by Rosali).
Is there a downside to all this? I suppose it depends on how you look at it. Word has spread so rapidly about the quality of food and the intimate experience at Talula’s farmhouse table that the pace of business is bringing a level of stress back into the picture. The room is booked solid through the end of 2007; only a few weeknights remain in April, May and June 2008; and the reservation book for dates in the second half of 2008 has been sealed until the New Year. Will we see a return to the one-month-out reservation policy the couple maintained while at Django? That remains to be seen. But it may be the only way for Aimee and Bryan to have some control over the pacing of their future.