Thursday, October 07, 2004

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


  • At 8/10/04 10:53, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I thought it was pretty tasty. No refills on drinks (which were very tasty). Gibby smelled that day. Oh man he stunk. I think the restaurant is a hobby for some rich Marin housewife. Still good food, that isn't found everywhere. I'd go back.


  • At 11/10/04 10:24, Blogger Gibby said…

    i was experimenting with a new deoderant that day. that was the smell of the deoderant, not me.

  • At 23/4/05 14:04, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm so glad you reviewed this place, although your previous commenters stink (ha).
    We're from L.A. but we're staying in Belvedere and we like to know what the geeks and roto artists eat around here. Now we do thanks to your handy dandy food blog.
    Tabla reminded us of a watered down version of Hampton Chutney Co. in Soho, NYC. We got a great lamb dosa and a chicken salad which was like a chop salad you can get just about anywhere. The drinks are fabulous, my feller had a grapefruit, ginger and mint drink and I had a black tea with lemonade. The tea was a bit smokey which made for an unusual taste for what is basically an Arnold Palmer.
    Nonetheless, for local eats we were thrilled. Esp. since we topped off our meal with Emporio Rulli double espresso affogatos! What else ya got up here, luckies?

  • At 23/4/05 14:51, Blogger Sam said…

    The chicken salad is my new addiction. I don't eat the dosas anymore. Just the salads and the soups and the specials. On some occasions they are remarkable. I know the chicken one seems fairly standard but the dressing is zinging with fresh ginger and I think it is a cut above average.
    I think this is as far as my luck goes - this is my fave place in Marin. If you check my 'Marin Lunch' index you'll see other places I've reviewed.
    Also - if you search my site with google you can find lots of other lovely soup and salad pics from Tabla. Their chef changed last week so we are keeping our fingers crossed that the quality remains.

  • At 23/4/05 18:10, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well then, I guess we just tasted the new cook's dishes. I can't compare but I was very impressed and delighted to find Tabla.

    You're so right about the soups. I had a sweet potato with spiced walnut garnish that was killer, a decent sized portion too.

    I forgot to mention that the papadam underneath the chicken salad was perfectly light and tasty - as you indicated elsewhere.

    She had a kale special today that I wish I had tried but after two dosas, a chicken salad, a soup, two drink refills and three chutneys it was getting a bit embarassing (urp!).

    Even the proprietor ("the rich housewife" - low blow) said, "Wow, you two are hungry."

    While we were there an older couple came in and the proprietor asked them where they were from; turns out they are retired ex-pats from Thailand who had read about Tabla online.

    I hope someone opens a Tabla or Hamptons Chutney Co.-ish place in Silver Lake soon. I'd go a few times a week fer shure.

    We took a few snaps too but I think you've got this place pretty well covered.

    Where is the closest dim sum? (We usually go to Fook Yuen in Millbrae, too far right now).

    Thanks for any tips.

  • At 23/4/05 23:47, Blogger Sam said…

    I am sorry, I am no expert on Dim Sum. It's an area where I rely on others to guide me. You could try and ask the question on bay area chowhound
    good luck!


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