Revisit: Bacon Naan and Other Delights at Tabla in Madison Square
Seven years ago, when Tabla first opened, I respected the restaurant, but didn't love it. It was too fusion-ey for me. Nevertheless, I noted, "Despite his profound culinary departures from an authentic Indian bill of fare, [chef Floyd] Cardoz always manages to throw subversive and homely Indian elements into his creations."
He must have partly agreed with me, because soon thereafter, a downstairs "bread bar" was created, dealing in wraps and bread-based dishes like those that have currently become popular in places like Kati Roll. Moreover, the food was aggressively spiced, at a time when many upscale Indian restaurants soft-pedaled the spice level.
Now, Bread Bar has been closed and the entire upstairs and downstairs spaces have been merged into a single restaurant, which incorporates elements of both previous institutions, and manages to represent even more the elegant beauty of Indian cooking.
I ate a dinner there recently with a friend -- and we both loved it. The occasion of our visit was a $25 coupon toward a meal that we got as a result of a Fresh Direct order. It's probably not worth ordering from Fresh Direct, which I actively dislike, but maybe you can cadge one from a friend.
Tabla's premises were once a bank lobby on two levels, and, despite some rather wild and colorful art, it's difficult to dispel the notion that you've just cashed your paycheck downstairs, and are about to enjoy a portion of the proceeds upstairs. I say upstairs, because upstairs is still the best place to sit, even though the greeters will try to steer you downstairs, where some very large men in white coats lurk by an oven, then burst into frenetic activity at various points in the evening. Besides, the downstairs still feels like common seating in a food court.