Tabla Cafe - Larkspur - Marin
1167 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, (415) 461-6787
Date of visit, Tuesday October the 6th for lunch with Fred and colleagues, S, S2, J, T and "Zed".
When The San Francisco Chronicle published its Bargain Bites, 2004 , I quickly scanned through the North Bay Section to see any new places to try out for lunch near to my workplace in San Rafael. Tabla, a place I had never heard of, caught my attention and so I dragged Fred off to try it. I thought it was interesting, so a couple of weeks later I invited a group of colleagues to join me there, to see what their reaction was to this unusual little cafe hidden away in a lesser-known stretch of Larkspur.
There is no waitress service. You queue at a counter to make you order from the either the daily changing specials on the blackboard or the seasonal-changing, printed menu which contains a note to inform customers that they use organic, locally farmed produce and other sustainably produced ingredients.
Delicious-sounding soups and salads are available but the mainstay of the menu are Dosai, the indian-style, lacy crepes made from organic rice-flour and dal. These are priced in the $6-10 price range and come served with a choice from several salsas or chutneys.
We all chose the Dosai. On my previous visit I had chosen the Grilled portobello and oyster mushrooms with leeks and Teleme cheese. I thought the combination was a little bit plain. The Teleme Cheese didn't have enough sharpness or bite to bring out the other flavours. According to my research, Teleme was first made in San Francisco's North Beach district in the 1920's and is a close cousin of Taleggio, a whole milk cheese traditionally from Italy. Now it is produced by the Sonoma Cheese Factory.
This time I opted for a more flavoursome-sounding filling, Scrambled farm eggs with curry spiced poatoes and spinach. I much preferred this Dosa. The scrambled eggs are pale and soft, not overcooked as they can so often be. The indian spices pack this pancake option with enough feistyness to counterbalance the rich and quite filling outer crepe shell. Described on the menu as crispy, the inside of the crepes are soft and uncooked enough to make them a little on the heavy side. I wouldn't have complained if they cooked my pancake (not the filling, which was perfect) for another minute or two. The dosai are apparently made with a sourdough starter. I am not a big fan of sourdough but it was less of a distraction for me in the spicier dish than it was when I had the less interesting mushroom filling.
On both occasions I chose the orange-avocado salsa as an accompaniment. More avocado than any other discernible ingredient, the salsa works well if spread on the outside of the dosai as a cooling creamy contrast to the other flavours inside.
The dosai are served on long, thin wooden plates reflecting their size and shape. They look very pretty but as Fred pointed, perhaps they weren't the most hygienic of eating implements.
Drink choices include a house red and white wine (served in an inelegant tumbler), teas, coffees and juices. I loved the freshly squeezed grapefruit juice with mint. Although I could barely detect the herb, the grapefruit they used was deliciously sweet and difficult to not slurp down in one fell swoop. Watermelon fresca with lime, also fresh, was less sugary to taste and a refreshing reminder of summer just past.
Tabla is open Tuesday-Friday 10.30am-7.30pm; Saturday 10am-3.00pm
My colleagues have promised to add their own comments, so I am looking forward to some alternative opinions.
Tabla Cafe - Larkspur - Marin