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Jun 8, 2008 06:03 PM

Tabla - Why is it still in business??

We were two at Tabla on Friday. Tabla, on Yonge at Lawrence, calls itself an Indian restaurant and wine bar. I should have known not to go, just based on that. But, we thought we'd try it. We won't go back. This place is completely pointless.

The room is nice enough. One immediately notices the comically oversized but cheap wine glasses begging you desperately to please order some wine.

The service was quite poor. It was very slow. When they mistakenly poured sparkling water into the half-empty glasses of tap water (which they provided first), they should have offered to replace the $7.95 bottle. I mean, if you want to go high end, train your staff accordingly. The restaurant was almost entirely empty, but it was quite impossible to get the attention of anyone most of the time. It was 35 degrees outside, and they didn't even spring for some AC; so we asked them to turn it on; they agreed, and put it on, lowering the temperature to around 34 degrees. It was sweltering inside, and that did not make their selection of marked up Aussie shiraz any more tempting.

I know, these service issues are relatively small infractions. The real problem with this place is that it is so confused. It doesn't know what type of restaurant it is. The wine list features mostly wines that would be God-awful with any type of Indian cuisine. Mmmm... just what I like, a deep dark Italian red to go with channa masala! Or a $50 bottle of wine, to be drowned in Vindaloo. Come on, guys. If you must open a "wine bar", do some research. Or better yet, stick with what you know and forget about a wine bar altogether.

The menu offers some Indian dishes, and then a peculiar selection of Italian dishes like Penne with mushrooms. Huh?

Of course, during our visit, I realized that this place is not for people who love Indian food. It's for people with very white skin and grey hair who may have never ventured away from the Yonge & Lawrence area for dinner, but are willing to try something new (to them), as long as there are tablecloths and the food is somewhat unthreatening.

The food is okay. Put it this way: the lunch buffet at Little India is much much better. And this place is $50pp.

We should have gone to Lahore Tikka House. But, ironically, we feared that LHT would not be adequately air-conditioned. (Yes, I know, we're a bunch of old ladies).

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  1. Wow. A lot of atmospheric dispepsia but no actual comment on the food.

    I've been there many times, and enjoyed both the atmosphere and the food. As for the wine list, it is one of the few places in the city that actually has the gall to introduce early stage Indian wine. And the guts, as the stuff isn't bad.

    In a heat wave, all sorts of weird sh#t happens. Would appreciate more constructive criticism on the food, as this place has been consistently good since opening.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Snarf

      Same here.
      I've been to Tabla on a number of occasions and each experience was fantastic -- not to mention the 10+ people I have taken there all love it and now go regularly.

      1. re: Suresh

        Me too. It's one of my faves. Great food.

    2. We're not wine drinkers so that doesn't bother us, but I'd have to agree that the two times we've been to Tabla, the service is generally bad. The younger gentleman is nice and does an ok job but and the older man is abrupt and rude. The place wasn't busy either time we were there but the food brings us back.

      1. I'm sorry to read you did not enjoy your visit and about the stories regarding poor service. I've never had a problem with them. I do wonder about their success because they never seem to be busy when I go there as well.

        Regarding your comments on wine, I agree they woud be better served if they had a wider selction of whites, but I can't fault them restaurant for putting a wide selection of reds. There are a lot of people who drink red with anything.

        I will disagree with one comment regarding the race of clientel and the implication that their food is not authentic or would not please an Indian palate. I can only speak for myself and my SO. We've grown up eating vindaloo and xacutti and Tabla's versions are very good. Granted there are deviations from flavours I'm used to (their vindaloo can be heavy on tamarind and clove and the xacutti not as spicy) but they are still well prepared. Their Mutter Paneer is also one of my favourites.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Apprentice

          Re: the food.
          I find that many of Tabla's dishes are very close to flavours I was used to, growing up in india/sri lanka. Albeit they may not be 100% authentic, they are pretty damn good.

          1. re: Suresh

            Well, I am outvoted so far.

            But, have you all been to the $10 buffets on Queen Street? Are they not serving better food than Tabla?

            1. re: Fwagra

              Not better, but likely the same.

              1. re: Dimbulb

                No way is it better or the same. When I was at Tabla, the food was fresh and uniquely layered with different flavours, unlike most Indian food in Toronto, which is homogenous.
                I've been to Siddartha for their buffet and it is fresh and tasty - for a buffet - but no where near as good quality as Tabla.
                I've been to Lahore Tikka House - good flavours, but VERY greasy - and for me the atmosphere is fine for a lunch while walking around, but for a nice dinner, it is no where near the same league as Tabla.
                I've also recently been to the Indian restaurant on Queen East in the Beach - name escapes me - "something Curry House". The food was actually very good, very flavourful and unique flavours, however, it was a little bit greasy and it was VERY slow. I would go back because it was tasty and the location is convenient for me, but I would only go back when I have time to kill and am in no rush to go anywhere.

                1. re: pescatarian

                  I'm with pescatarian. The food at Tabla has Queen St. buffets beat hands-down. I've really enjoyed my food both times I've been there.

                  I've also found the service to be excellent (though I note that I was served by the young guy, not the "rude" older man referred to above).

                  Can't comment on the wine selection as I stick to beer with Indian.

        2. Because it's the best Indian restaurant (currently) in Toronto.
          I have to be suspicious of your motivations here. Especially the comment about Indian buffets which ALL (including the ones at some Indian places I'll frequent for dinner) feature soggy food that often has the texture of mush.
          Certainly some buffets are better than others - but your comment would be jumped upon if you suggested that lunch buffets at 'Continental' restaurants were far better than continental (or French) food served a la carte.
          If you had bad service - that's something to fairly criticize, but after a dozen meals now at Tabla I find most of their dishes to contain fresh ingredients and to feature the most sophisticated spicing I've found in Toronto, with layers of flavour.
          I've had servers at 3* restaurants pour sparkling on top of tap (happened to me at Per Se in New York) - that's not excusable anywhere. I also find their mark-up on Aussie Shiraz to be comparable with other places at $50pp food.
          Maybe you were just hot under the collar - and the less said about their clientele the better!

          6 Replies
          1. re: estufarian

            I've got white skin, grey hair, live within striking distance of Lawrence Park - and I enjoyed the couple of times I've been to Tabla. Mind, it has been several months since I've been there, so maybe it has gone downhill, as a number of high-end joints tend to do when they discover that not enough customers want to pay their prices. But for the extra price, I thought Tabla was a couple of cuts above the norm, with much more complex spicing - and more offbeat dishes - than I usually get at other Indian joints. For good standard-issue Indian, I like Indian Kitchen, on north Yonge St. at Clark - it seems to have a bit more flair than most of the others. But my upscale go-to Indian favorite remains Tabla until I discover otherwise (I want to see for myself those Italian dishes I don't recall from the menu). I've yet to experience lousy service at Tabla - maybe my grey hair commands a little more respect. And, like torontofoodiegirl, I don't understand wine with Indian food (though I can be persuaded by a nice Ontario Riesling). Beer seems the more appropriate accompaniment.

            1. re: juno

              And I don't understand wanting to drink beer with Indian food. Lassi or Mango juice seems the more appropriate accompaniment to me;) To each their own, I guess!

              1. re: phoenikia

                you must try it phoenikia! a kingfisher and masala is pure heaven.

                1. re: phoenikia

                  finding an appropriate beer pairing would require some similar knowledge to wine but is often significantly easier to find. the sweet bitters and varied flavours in exceptional beers can certainly quench from the spice and complement. i've never had a beer fall flat the way a wine can when paired poorly.

                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                    I find cider works well with Indian food.

              2. re: estufarian

                Clearly, I am outvoted, although I stand by my opinion about the food at Tabla. We disagree. The food I had at Tabla was beneath mediocre.

                Your suspicion about my motivation... please elaborate and try not to be too offensive or personal, (I think that's where you're going with this, but I may be wrong).

                I am not talking about Continental restaurants, and your analogy makes no sense to me.

              3. The original comment has been removed