Talia’s Steakhouse: 668 Amsterdam Ave. New York, NY

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Gabriel bought a coupon for a $75-for-a-3-course prix-fixe dinner and a bottle of wine (A $150 value) from Livingsocial.com a while back. The expiration date on the coupon was getting close and after running 8 miles today and coming home starving, we decided it was the perfect opportunity to use it. The truth is, we were going into this with a sense of humor. I’d read a ton of REALLY awful reviews on Yelp.com about Talia’s and wasn’t expecting much. I was actually sort of looking forward to the fun that comes in writing really bad reviews and I’m laughing as I tell you that the only disappointment in this meal is that it was not at all disappointing.

Maybe it was simply because we went into it with such low expectations, but I have to say- this was actually a very nice experience. As soon as we were seated, the waitress brought out water, warm pita bread, an herb margarine and olive oil with basil. A few minutes later the owner himself brought us some hummus and tahini on the house- what a lovely surprise. Our bottle of red came soon after that, and we commented to each other, so far so good. What was everyone on Yelp complaining about?

We placed our order from the Prix Fix menu- with options that weren’t terribly exciting, but appealing nonetheless. We started with a mixed salad- it was better than ‘basic’ with hearts of palm, spinach and tons of other fresh veggies. The dressing was creamy and flavorful and the crunchy toasted pita bread on top was a great little bonus. The other appetizer was a middle eastern sampling of chicken fingers and other fried goodies. They were all tasty and different with flavors that were out of the ordinary for me. A little ‘too’ deep fried for my liking, but crunchy, hot and with a great green tahini sauce it made for a nice dish. We each ordered steaks for our main course, mine with a side of delicious sauteed mushrooms and his with steamed spinach. The sides were fine- though not particularly creative or interesting. The meat itself was ok, not fantastic; flavorful but a little overcooked and tough. For dessert we shared the chocolate souffle with vanilla ‘ice cream’ (non-dairy) and the tiramisu. Being that this is a Kosher restaurant, we found the non-dairy attempts to be pretty satisfying. The souflee was the standout here, rich and chocolate-y and right out of the oven…what’s not to like about that?!?!

After we finished eating I asked our waitress to have the owner come chat with us but was told that he was either outside or downstairs smoking. Ah. That’s where the cigarette smell was coming from. We had actually been chatting with the people at the next table over from us about the smell wafting in- and when we found out it was coming from the owner himself, we realized there would be no one to complain to about it. Well, that’s not really very cool at all. It was the only thing I wasn’t okay with at this restaurant and I hope that he reads this and takes it into consideration the next time he wants to satisfy his nicotine craving. We are eating in your establishment sir, and you are taking away from the experience by contaminating our noses.

Other than that, there was a great guitarist/vocalist performing while we ate and I personally really enjoyed that. He had a lovely voice and picked music that I really enjoyed. It seemed that the other patrons were really impressed as well and I thought it was a nice touch. The one other thing that wasn’t such a nice touch were the 2 flat screen TVs playing football games. This is a fairly classy restaurant, not a bar, and the TVs really cheapened the atmosphere.

All in all, I felt that for the $75, this was a great value. I’m not sure I would have felt okay about paying the full $150 price that it’s usually worth- but given the circumstances we were very pleased. Although I do not keep Kosher, I would recommend a visit to Talia’s for those of you that do.

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