A Taste of Tabla at [ONE] Restaurant
100 Meadowmont Village Circle
Meadowmont Village, Chapel Hill
A few weeks ago, I attended my first prix fixe dinner at [ONE], a great restaurant that I loved last year when I tried it out shortly after its opening. This dinner was thrown in honor of Floyd Cardoz’s win of the third season of Top Chef Masters. Two of the chefs at [ONE]—Sean McCarthy, Chef de Cuisine, and Carrie (whose last name I didn’t get), Sous Chef—used to work under Chef Cardoz at his famous restaurant in New York, Tabla. They thought they’d honor their former boss’s success with a themed dinner menu for the week. The menu consisted of some of their favorite New Indian dishes from their time at Tabla.
My priorities always being straight, I ordered a Sleepy Chameleon, which was a wonderfully light cocktail made with lemon juice, candied lemongrass, and chamomile flavors. It was quite beautiful and a great choice for this time of year.
First up was an amuse-bouche of chilled cucumber and ginger soup with yogurt, radish, and a lovely range of cool herbs.
I really, really enjoyed this beginning to the evening. It would be an awesome choice to make a regular appearance on [ONE]’s summer menu. It was so pretty, and the herbs infused the soup with colossal flavor. It was a substantial amount of food for an amuse-bouche, too!
The second course was a brulée of diver scallop accompanied by shaved green apple, a green chili and cilantro emulsion, and pickled green mango.
I had never thought of blowtorching a scallop, and neither had the rest of the kitchen, as everyone gathered to watch Chef Sean perform the task.
The scallops were sliced thinly and tasted wonderful with the bruléed crust. This dish was really about texture, though, and the velvety scallops, crunchy apple, and somewhere-in-the-middle pickled green mango were pleasurable complements in that regards.
The second course was a coconut milk and black kokum upma. Upma, Chef Sean informed us, is a typical breakfast food in India similar to porridge. This one was made with semolina and earthier flavors than what my quick Googling informs me are standard ingredients in the dish like chiles, lime, and other lively ingredients.
This dish achieved one of those rare feats in my dining history—I enjoyed the mushrooms. They fit in so well with the toasted, earthy qualities of the upma. I loved every bite, even the mushroom-filled ones. That’s only happened one other time in my restaurant experience! The coconut milk gave a subtle sweetness to the dish that accentuated that earthiness more.
By this point, I had worked my way to my second cocktail of the evening, the Thai Hot Margarita.
I’m a sucker for herbs floating around in my beverage, and this drink was no exception. With chile and pineapple infused tequila along with that cilantro and a variety of citrus flavors, I was quite happy.
For the third course, we were served the signature dish at Tabla, rice-flake-crusted black grouper in a watermelon curry with watercress and cilantro-lime relish.
It was my least favorite of the evening, as I found the rice flakes, more like rice krispies, too odd texturally in combination with the light curry, but I still thought it very well executed. Watermelon in curry form is certainly a novelty, and I still can’t decide if I loved the sauce or I just loved the novelty of it. The pumpkin seeds were the best part of the dish.
For dessert, we did not have a Tabla dish but [ONE]’s pastry chef came up with an orange basmati rice pudding to complement the invigorating Indian flavors of the evening.
The rice pudding, oranges, and coconut-lime sorbet were positioned above a pool of ginger-lime lassi. It was a nice finish to the evening, though I’d have liked more of the rice pudding and less of the lassi. The sorbet was delicious and would go well with any number of other dessert combinations.
I was very, very pleased with my first prix fixe dinner at [ONE]. I look forward to seeing what Chef Sean comes up with in the future!by