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Tabella in Amherst, MA = wonderful!

I enjoyed a fantastic meal at Tabella in Amherst last week.
It's run by the folks who used to own A Bottle of Bread which
sadly burned down in Shelburne Falls a while ago.

It's not a traditional Spanish tapas restaurant, but tapas in that
it only serves small plates. Standouts were the free range chicken
wings served with a creamy lemongrass dipping sauce (the wings
were SO much larger and juicier than their non-organically raised
counterparts), seared duck with fig and port sauce, balsamic braised brussels
sprouts with chestnuts, and a curried cod dish served with kale. All the
dishes were wonderful. We also had fried olives stuffed w. almonds and feta, though we all agreed they could have used more feta.

Tabella is located at 28 Amity Street, right next to the newly renovated
Amherst Cinema and Amherst Coffee. We went to Amherst Coffee afterwards for
Hot Toddies and whiskeys. They have a very selective array of whiskey, wine, port, etc.
Or you can always get a nice espresso.

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  1. Although, by all accounts that I have heard, Tabella is indeed delightful, it is not owned by the former owners of Bottle of Bread. One of the three owners (Susanne)currently works there. The other two, (Maggie and Roma) have been trying to open a new place in Greenfield for some time now.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hilltowner

      The Bottle of Bread restaurant was originally created and owned by a father, mother and daughter team. Then sold to its former owners. Emily Wadham(the daughter)now infact ownes and operates tabella restaurant along with her husband.

      1. re: certaintalk

        Oh, the original owners! That is great news, and explains why I haven't seen them in a while. Good for her for starting up another restaurant. I believe, though I may be mistaken, that she sold Bottle of Bread when her first husband died.

    2. What do all these little plates cost for a night out per person? Expensive when you add it all up, no doubt? I know....worth every penny.

      1. We ordered 5 dishes for 3 people and were satisfied. Yes, we could have ordered 1 or 2 more, but we were being economical that night. The duck was the most expensive plate at $12.50, I think.. .The olives were only $5 or $6. Everything else fell in between, price wise.

        1. The three of us ate (not dined) at Tabella the other night. We could not get a reservation since we were less than five but we could sit at the bar until a table was available we were told. The bar was packed so we stood in the drafty cold nether world while people piled behind us, pushing us into the cramped confines of the noisy interior. Fortunately, for us the party for a reserved table never showed and we were seated relatively quickly
          We knew we were in trouble when the menu listed “Little plates and small plates” at full size prices. Our instant buddy waiter suggested that we order three or four little plates each and a small plate too. The sinking feeling in our stomachs got larger, as none of us was related to Rockefeller. Be advised the prices in relation to the portions are in the exact ratio that Gulliver was to the Lilliputians. To make a small story little let me cut to the chase. Dinner for three:1- onion soup, delicious but very small bowl, 2- steamed mussels – almost raw, only cooked until shells opened then taken of the stove. They came with a mushy sauce, nothing to write home about, the mussels were sent back to kitchen for more cooking, they came back to table and some mussels were cooked others still semi raw.-3- A little plate of fried oysters with some kind of indeterminate sauce, not worth the price, 4- organic green salad with dressing. Dressing? What dressing! Could barely taste the dressing on the mixed greens. 5-Fried stuffed olives maybe eight, served in a mini weenie, teeny tiny plate (the least expensive item on the menu for $5.00. and the only dish served that was fully cooked )6- Lollipop lamb chops ,three teeny weenie lamb chops (I have seen bigger lollipops!) undercooked actually almost raw since the inner meat was red! Sent it back for more cooking, Bland taste served over imitation rice a roni.7- Venison; three teeny weenie little strips of very pink venison served over a scoop of mashed potatoes in relation to the portion size a single deer could feed the Alqonquin Nation for a year.8- Last but not least (the oysters qualified for that distinction) was the measly serving of part of a practically raw duck breast. I wouldn’t touch an under cooked bird soaking in it’s own undercooked juice with a ten foot pole but the adventurous devil may care live for today die tomorrow person who ate it seemed to like it. I almost gagged watching her eat it.
          By the way, a serving of stale bread is extra if you want to sop up the bird juice. The price for this buffoonery with 3 beers, 2 martinis, a rum drink, a glass of wine, 2 coffees the most tasteless crème brule ever concocted and some kind of overly sweet pear
          something was $186.00 and change with the 20% tip. We left (to never come back) feeling hungry .

          2 Replies
          1. re: frank footer

            frank footer, FINALLY someone speaks the truth about Tabella! Overrated, Overpriced snacks. The Emperor has no clothes! There is an Elephant in room!...We all know what tapas IS, I did not go in expecting an $80 snack fest, but that is what it was. There is no need to price gouge. Especially in this economy. I went there and refused to ever go back. FF you got 8 olives? WOW someone was asleep in the kitchen, we got 5 (there were 2 of us), Chick pea sticks (4) at least it was an even number of tasteless, mushy, deep fried swill; a mixed green salad with a watered down, barely there tasteless dressing, and some other forgettable debacle of a snack, plus 2 specialty drinks (read: RIP OFF) ridiculous and seriously the biggest rip off in town, if you do not count Chez Albert--$12 for a half an egg omelet, one grape tomato cut in half, a tsp of goat cheese and a sprig of basil. YUM

            1. re: frank footer

              agreed. based on my one visit, these guys seem to shine on a few dishes, but with quality so inconsistent, prices so high, and portion size so all over the place (chickpea "frites" were about a dollar a fry, a caesar salad was nearly entree sized, but not very good) it's not much worth going back. after we ate there, i went to antonio's for a slice of pizza - that's should say it all.

              belive me, it's not that i am cheap or don't like tapas (either in the spanish sense or in the "small plates" concept) - this place just does not live up to what it should be.

            2. I was a skeptic to begin with, but ended up there one night last week. However, as soon as we saw the menu I saw the handwriting on the wall and ordered accordingly. We got away with a $30 "meal" which turned out to be a snack. The small plate of pork tenderloin for $12 or so was SMALL...not even enough to share. The potato pancake that came with it was the size of a quarter. I had a $8 lasagna, I could have eaten two of them. A small salad and $3.50 soda rounded things up. Actually, our food wasn't bad at all, but I was in too much of shock to enjoy it. And they didn't give us any bread...how chincy can you get. We only went there because we couldn't get a seat at Chez Albert's. I'll never complain about the prices at Chez Albert again.

              1. the concept of the restaurant is small plates.
                if you arrive ravenous expecting large portions then you're at the
                wrong restaurant. my companions and i truly enjoyed our meal there
                and i can't wait to go back.

                i do think bread should be complimentary, though...

                1 Reply
                1. re: caughtstars

                  the "small plates" concept is a good one, but it works best when one can sample two or three different items for the price or a meal at an entree based restaurant, and leave full. at tabella, the prices and portion sizes do not work out like that. the real problem though, is the quality. i love good food and would gladly pay though the teeth to find a place that served real jewels of small plates in the pioneer valley. tabella ocasionally gets a hit but there are way to many misses to justify the price.

                2. Hmmmm...luckily Amherst has lots of cheap good eats options. Hope the hungry headed across the road to Antonios to fill up afterwards. How I miss Antonios!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: kiwijen

                    i did. it's about the saddest thing i could say about my visit to tabella - that after a visit there antonio's filled me up with more consistent food for less than the price of a slice of bread at tabella.

                  2. When I entered Tabella it looked very promising, then we saw the menu and were quite impressed because we like tapas and this looked new and different. We ordered drinks: 2 sangrias and a mint lime soda. The sangrias were very good but expensive and the soda was great. Then we ordered; We ordered a soup hadt had a nice texture but not much flavor, The arugula salad was very good but overpriced.. Then we wanted meat, so we got the lamb lollipops, oysters and chickpea fries. The lamb lollipops were dry and hardly had any meat.on them. We got 2 of those for $14 MASSIVE RIPOFF! Then we got the oysters; there were 5 fried oysters for $12. The chickpea fries had a funky texture and were served with a honey mustard sauce taken from a fast food place. In conclusion Tabella is a good place to go if you are massivly rich and like mediocre food.
                    P.S. We belong to a community sustained agriculture farm share north of Boston, and do not believe that excellent, local, fresh produce must cost one an arm and a leg.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Selective food1e

                      Tabella is totally annoying. Miniscule portions of OK food stupidly overpriced. Last time we went the three men in our party were grittng our teeth through the whole tiny portion dining experience while the three women loved the "small plate" cute presentation thing. Guys detest the place and feel ripped off. Women like the whole pseudo-tapas schtick. Yeah, $14 for those those 2 lamb lollipops go into the chutzpah hall of fame. I'll never go back!

                      1. re: Big Fat Moe

                        Tabella is no longer just small plates. It now has large plates as well. I have never left hungry and find the menu varied and appropriately priced.

                        Obviously it's not a fast food pizza place like Antonio's. People who want that can certainly go there. There is also a collection of McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, and a new Taco Bell right down the road on Route 9. I'm sure you can get huge portions of "food" for very little money there.

                        1. re: taos

                          I think Tabella has pretty much always had some large plates on the menu. They've always been $30 plus. Mostly, though, it's a "small plates" place.

                          I think you are misreading the comments here if you think the folks complaining are doing so only because they have Taco Bell taste buds and/or like huge portions. Expensive high quality food can fly in Amherst and in the valley if it's done right - witness Amherst Coffee and Chez Albert as two examples of places that do what they do well. It was me that commented about Antonio's, and let's be frank, Antonio's is fairly crappy pizza - my point was that as long as I'm paying I'd rather eat there than at Tabella, where I felt like I paid through the teeth for comically, preciously, tiny portions (and I both get and like the small plates concept), and, whats more important, food of inconsistent quality that tended to be less than inspiring.

                          If Tabella wants to do what they do and charge what they charge, every bite needs to be truly stellar. In my experiences there, I often felt that would I ordered could have been on the menu at The Monkey Bar or Amherst Brewing - that doesn't cut it.

                          I should acknowledge that at this point (we are discussing a post I made in August 2008) it's been over a year since I've eaten at Tabella, so it's possible my criticisms no longer apply. I'd be glad to go back and be pleasantly surprised on somebody else's dime and if it's as good as it ought to be I'll eat my words. As it is, though, if I'm paying I'd much rather eat at Chez Albert in Amherst, Circa or Green Street in Northampton, Hope and Olive in Greenfield, The Night Kitchen in Montague, Gypsy Apple in Shelburne Falls, or Ristorante DiPaolo in Turners Falls, all of which (in my experience there) offer both better food and more of it than Tabella, and in each case, for less money.