News From the Kitchens
Tal’s Hummus, Caribbean Room & Little Korea BBQ
SARA ESSEX BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHS
Tal’s Hummus is the second restaurant in New Orleans to serve Israeli food, after Shaya, and while it’s unlikely that the far more casual Tal’s will garner the kind of acclaim that’s been justifiably bestowed on Shaya, it’s absolutely worth a visit.
Chef Tal Sharon is cooking Israeli street food, which means falafel, grilled chicken, ground meat kebabs and, of course, hummus. What sets Tal’s apart from the other restaurants where those dishes are on offer is, first, that apart from the aforementioned Shaya and 1000 Figs, I haven’t found falafel as good.
The pita at Tal’s is also distinct; it’s thicker than the pocket-bread you find at most places. Then there are the sauces – the spicy, tart and herbaceous Schug (or Zhug) is a revelation, and the amba, a mango-based condiment, is very nice as well. I haven’t had anything at Tal’s I didn’t like, and most of what I’ve eaten was exceptional.
Tal’s took over the spot that was recently home to McClure’s Barbecue. It is a small space, with room for about 20 or so diners, but the operation is set up to handle a larger volume via take-out and you won’t wait long for your order once you’ve placed it.
Tal’s Hummus is located at 4800 Magazine St., and it’s open every day, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. You can order online at OrderTalsOnline.com or by calling 267-7357.
I ate at the Caribbean Room as a child, and though I don’t have specific recollections of the food, I do recall dressing for the occasion and being on my best behavior.
So I was excited when I heard the Besh Group was going to be involved in the revitalized Caribbean Room in the Pontchartrain Hotel. Of the dining rooms, only the founder’s room retains the original wood paneling, and the portrait of L’il Wayne that hangs prominently in the “living room,” where guests can have a drink before dinner, is definitely new. But the overall feel is still elegant and refined. It is a white tablecloth restaurant in the best sense. Food and Beverage manager Tony Abadie has that welcoming demeanor one looks for in the front of house at this sort of restaurant.
The menu, similarly, has as many dishes recalling the glory days as plates that speak to current trends. Crabmeat Remick and Shrimp Saki are there, as is Trout Veronique, with its garnish of white grapes in hollandaise sauce. Wagyu beef and beet tartare are new, as is the rabbit and dumplings with peas, asparagus and gnocchi. It goes without saying that the Mile High pie is an option for dessert.
The Caribbean Room is located at 2031 St. Charles Ave. and is open for dinner 5-10 p.m. nightly; there are plans to open for lunch on Fridays and for brunch on Sundays this fall. Call 323-1500 to make a reservation.
Little Korea BBQ
Little Korea BBQ has recently opened at 2240 Magazine St. Joyce Park, who runs the restaurant that her parents started at its former location on Claiborne Avenue, told me their excellent kimchi is made from a family recipe and not toned down to suit less adventurous palates. That said, it isn’t too spicy, and it’s less pungent than some versions I’ve tried.
One of the other great things about Korean food is, as suggested by the restaurant’s name, grilled food, and the best way to do it is on an in-table grill over real lump charcoal. Little Korea BBQ has a number of in-table grills, with elaborate hoods suspended over each.
The menu also features Korean standards like bibimbap (rice served in a heated stone or cast-iron bowl, topped with vegetables and meat or seafood), Japchae, (sweet potato noodles stir fried with vegetables, with or without meat) and steamed or fried dumplings. Park is a classically trained pianist, and the restaurant’s sound system is usually playing that genre of music, often coordinated with a video projected on the back wall.
Little Korea BBQ is open 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; until 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; and for dinner only on Tuesdays and Sundays 5:30-9:30 p.m. Call 821-5006 to find out more.