Philadelphia Restaurant Review: Talula’s Daily

Chef Scott Megill’s cooking is great, but Talula’s Daily owner Aimee Olexy distracts from the food with merchandising worthy of a showroom.

Photo by Courtney Apple.

Photo by Courtney Apple.

The spell was lovely while it lasted. The gourmet market at Talula’s Daily had closed for the day at 7 p.m., and the “Secret Supper Club” had begun.

A glass bell jar capped a pint-sized cupcake platform. A ceramic owl was also a cookie jar. Bone china plates painted with chameleons or honeybees alternated with stoneware bearing zigzags or abstract circles. Delicately etched wine goblets sparkled above the dull gleam of mismatched silver-plated utensils.

After an oversalted start—fried calamari with shishito and Padrón chilies—our August dinner had dropped into a comfortable groove. Grilled romaine with corn butter and zucchini ribbons led into hand-cut tagliatelle and meatballs in an heirloom tomato sauce perfumed ever so slightly with orange zest (served with a generous bowl of extra meatballs on the side). By the time our scoops of lavender ice cream merged into the almond streusel adorning a rustic stone-fruit crumble, it was hard to imagine stuffing more of late summer into our ballooning bellies.

But somewhere before dessert and the individually tailored cheese course, our cheerful waitress broke the enchantment of Aimee Olexy’s ode to homespun coziness by delivering what you’d have to call a sales pitch. Everything on the table, she divulged, was a product for sale by Anthropologie.

“Even the mismatched silverware?” I asked, as my brain seemed to stumble.

“Yes, that too,” she replied. “They sell them in mismatched sets!”

A wariness crept into our enjoyment. I didn’t know what to think. It was as though we’d witlessly fallen into a lifestyle magazine where the wall separating editorial from advertising had been dissolved. Was I paying $50 to eat five courses inside a retail showroom? Or was this living advert perhaps actually subsidizing a $65 supper down to $50?

It’s a shame Olexy has let these questions intrude upon the careful cooking of Scott Megill, formerly a sous-chef at Talula’s Table. His monthly menus tease out the most intricate mood shifts that lurk within and between seasons. In September, a cool, citrusy escabeche of Carolina shrimp rimmed a plate bearing a bowl of soul-warming tomato and shrimp-shell bisque: It was like the last cooling kiss of summer upon autumn’s stove-warmed cheek. Medium-rare lamb leg slices, beside a trove of apricots and Honeycrisps and semisweet poached turnips buried in toasted bulgur, fired my hard-to-ignite enthusiasm for the weather and food up next.

Megill’s lunch stews, salads and sandwiches are also delicious, if pricey. And Talula’s Daily sells lots of lovely other things, from cutting boards to preserved piquillo peppers. I just wish it weren’t selling its customers’ attention as part of the bargain.

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