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Dec 3, 2007 03:00 AM

Urbane Restaurant - Tallahassee

So, my partner and I gave Urbane a try for the first time Saturday night during Tallahassee's annual "Winter Festival". We canvassed the restaurant out early on in the evening as we had 8:00 p.m. reservations. The bar seemed to be extremely busy but everything else looked calm. We decided to get out of the "fair-themed" crowd and see if we could be seated early around 7:00. Surprisingly, it wasn't a problem as there were many open tables at that time.

The decor is striking. You actually forget you are in downtown Tallahassee. You feel as though you are in a much more sophisticated city. The bench seating along a wall, tables just for two, dark wood floors with carpet mixed in for contrast, nice lighting. Just a total departure from what I've seen here in Tally. I expect this kind of decor in a restaurant such as BB's in Jacksonville, not in a Tallahassee restaurant. There was music playing which seemed to increase in decibels as the patrons' decibel levels climbed. So, if you like loud and energetic, you will love this space.

After the hostess seated us toward the very back near the exit from the kitchen, we were told that our server was Drew and he would be with us shortly. That turned into many minutes later. In an "upscale dining establishment", no matter how busy the restaurant, someone, if not your server, should immediately arrive at your table to, if nothing else, pour you a glass of water. After some time, our intrepid server finally arrived and asked if we would care for anything to drink. Having been parched for some time, I really would have liked some water upon seating but unfortunately at Urbane this seemed to be an afterthought as I had to ask for it after I had placed my drink order. But I digress.

My partner and I sat and chatted for at least 10 minutes if not longer waiting on our cocktails. After my many head turns in the direction of the bar it must have gotten the Manager/Owner's attention because she came over to our table and asked if we were going to have anything to drink. We explained to her that we were waiting on our drinks and she immediately took off to investigate the situation. After the drinks FINALLY arrived (I had a vodka martini with blue-cheese stuffed olives--which are stuffed to order per our server--and my partner had a classic Hendricks martini) we still couldn't toast properly as my partner's Hendricks martini came ungarnished as, per Drew, the bar had run out of cucumber garnish. Umm, WTF? How do you run out of an item that you specifically state garnishes a drink that is listed on the drink menu? So, my partner decided to just have Drew bring him blue cheese stuffed olives to finish off the drink. Now mind you, I mentioned earlier these were stuffed to order...and Drew made this comment again. You know what this means--another 10+ minute wait. After I purposefully put off toasting our evening thinking the olives would be forthcoming, we finally toasted, sans olives in my partner's drink, and carried on. If I remember correctly, the owner came over again and we mentioned the fact we were waiting on the olives but about that time Drew came over with them and said there had been a mix-up at the bar or something. Uh huh. Yeah, that's it. On close inspection, it appeared the bar had run out of toothpicks as well because the olives seemed to be impaled on a broken skewer from the kitchen. *sigh*

So, with all that said and done, we finally got around to looking at the menu for an appetizer. We decided to start with the trio of shrimp cake and fried green tomato with fire roasted corn-black bean salsa and smoked pepper aioli. It was beautifully presented, napolean style, and also the perfect temperature. The shrimp cakes themselves were smoky and spicy and absolutely delicious. Although the fried green tomatoes were delicious, my partner frowned at the breading as it did not adhere to the tomatoes and kept falling off. Otherwise, the dish was perfect.

After that first delight, we ventured further into the small plates menu and decided to get another appetizer--this time the pan seared sea scallops with braised collard greens and texas caviar. What can I say except oh my God! Two scallops, PERFECTLY cook, on a bed of greens and texas "caviar". Divine. Absolutely divine. This made up for slow drink service and breading issue with the first appetizer. Urbane was back in our good graces at this point.

After much thought, we finally decided we should get an entree....but split it. To me, if a restaurant cannot split a plate for a diner, and present it in the way the chef would like to have his meals presented, they are not much of a restaurant. Just my opinion. So, with that, we ordered the steak frites--grilled hanger steak, haricot verts, house frites and roasted shallot red wine jus. While taking our order, Drew, our knowledgeable server, never asked how we wanted the steak cooked. This was interesting to me as I have never been to any restaurant that did not ask this question. However, in Urbane's defense, it wasn't necessary.

The plates arrived to our table some 20-30 minutes later, split and presented perfectly. I could not imagine eating an entire order as there was a considerable amount of food on each plate! The hanger steak was cooked to perfection and already pre-sliced by the kitchen. Must be a presentation thing. Regardless, the steak was cooked rare to medium rare--perfect. The flavor was intense, especially when you sopped your steak in some of the roasted shallot red wine jus. Heavenly. The haricot verts and house frites were also cooked to perfection...both being crunchy and not over- or undercooked. Both plates were clean when our server removed them from the table!

Being stuffed, I debated whether or not to get dessert. But, I'm a dessert guy so I HAD to, if for nothing else, just to have one bite. We decided on the chocolate and caramel brownie martini over vanilla ice cream and a couple of espressos. The brownie was chocolatey and rich with a hint of saltiness. Magnificent. All of the flavors combined very well to provide a suitable ending to our evening.

So how do I rate Urbane? At this early stage of the game, I would say that they still have some things to improve upon. Service being one. You shouldn't have to ask for water. Just a pet peeve of mine. It shouldn't take half an hour to get a properly presented drink from the bar, no matter how busy the bar. You can't use "this is Tallahassee, a college town, this is the best kind of service you are going to get" as an excuse either. Case in point. My partner and I went to Las Vegas for the week of Thanksgiving and ate at Rosemary's Restaurant. It's off the strip in a little strip mall. Most of the servers appeared to be in college or thereabouts. The service was top notch--5 stars in my opinion. If these kids could provide that level of service, any kid can. It's all in the training. So, I guess all of my major complaints would be directed at the front of the house. A little more finesse could be attained with the proper training.

In the back, the kitchen did an outstanding job. The food was superb. Although I can't say it's up there with Liam's or Sage, I would say it's pretty close.

If anyone else has been to Urbane, let's hear your story!

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  1. We were at the bar during the winter festival and it is not suprising that it took a long to get drinks, the bar was packed. I think that eating any where during the festival would make the service slower than normal.

    1. Thanks so much for the review. I agree 100% with your point that service doesn't have to be bad in a college town I've had some wonderful meals and impeccable service in Gainesville in multiple places, Mark's Prime being a favorite.

      I have been considering Urbane for my graduation dinner in two weeks, but now I'm leaning more towards Liam's. I'm a little turned off by the bring your own wine thing, though. But if Urbane wasn't ready for the Winter Festival crowds, graduation might be the same kind of scenario!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Ashlyn819

        I'll post my review of Urbane later today (upshot: we'd definitely go again!), but why does BYOB turn you off? You can save a lot of money. Note also they do sell some wine now.

        1. re: kgs

          Because I'm the only person that drinks alcohol in my family. I ended up going to Liam's, it was wonderful. I didn't miss having wine, because the lemonade suited my mood and was delicious.

          I went to Urbane about a month or so ago, found it to be good, but not great. Part of the problem was I got hangar steak both at Liam's and Urbane's, and Liam's was of such amazingly high quality and well prepared and paired with the mini root vegetables that Urbane's just wasn't as good. It probably would've been better had I just not been to Liam's. A friend had the butternut squash ravioli, and that was the best dish at the table, exceptionally rich though. I would go again, but it probably wouldn't be my first choice.

      2. So I went on Saturday and was not impressed. We started off with green tomato and crab cake appetizer which was very nice. Then I ordered the chicken, onion pizza and my guest ordered the duck. When the pizza came out it had honey on it. Which made it really gross and sweet. I had the waiter take it back and ordered a simple tomato and cheese pizza with broccolini. It came back with canned tomatoes on it. I picked them off but i was not impressed. My guests duck was overcooked and tough. We did try the carmel brownie martini and it was amazing!!

        1. Went there for lunch and thought it was overpriced, but better than I expected. Our server was quite the space cadet as she took our order and then came back to take our order not remembering she had just been there. The pizza that Carinole had was described on the menu as chicken with sundried tomatoes, carmelized onions, feta and honey. I thought it was interesting and enjoyed it. I also had the pear salad. I thought the cheeses on the salad and pizza were good and the balsamic vinegar on the salad was better quality than other places in town. I'm disappointed to hear about the duck and canned tomatoes, because we were hoping to go for dinner after enjoying our lunch. Perhaps we will after the kinks have been worked out as PB suggested.

          4 Replies
          1. re: masala maci

            They're very clear about the ingredients in dishes, and their pizzas are intended to be inventive. I posted elsewhere that my partner and I split the chorizo-fig-white cheese pizza and really liked it--a great combo of spicy/creamy/sweet. I'm not sure I would want a "fresh" tomato on anything in December. We too were there on the festival night and it was a lot less crazy in Urbane than it was outside!

            Tough duck is another story... I love duck and am sad when I end up wrangling it on a restaurant plate. We noticed some service issues but it was a festival night and they are new. Hopefully they're reading this and will attend to these issues.

            1. re: kgs

              My only point is why put a tomato pizza on the menu if you don't have good fresh tomatos. The honey the drizzled on the chicken pizza was not listed on the menu. I intentionally did not order the chorizo fig pizza because it did list the honey. I just really wasn't impressed with the menu or the meals.

              1. re: carinole

                Some people LIKE dried or even good canned tomatoes...

                1. re: kgs

                  then all they have to do is describe it in the menu that way.

          2. We went last night. We had many of the same issues that I'd read about in other reviews. The people we went with are completely done with it, and I have to tell you, as much as I hate to say this, I think I am too. I really have no desire to ever try it again. I know it's not fair to compare anything new (although remember, the owners are not new to this game, just to Tallahassee) to Liam's because they have it down to an art, but I really don't see much reason to head back to Urbane, when it's just a short drive to Thomasville, where you KNOW your experience will be outstanding, from the time you walk through the door.

            I'm hoping that Urbane call pull out of this new restaurant nose dive they are in and truly take off. I just don't know how long you can goof up in this fickle town and still stay around.