Tashan: The Best Restaurant You’re Not Going To

Second Chance

Philadelphia is now home to one of the best Indian restaurants in the country. So why aren’t you eating there?

Once upon a time in Philly, there was a small and slightly troubled high-end Indian restaurant called Bindi, owned and operated by Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney, the Lords of 13th Street. It wasn’t a perfect restaurant. It was a BYO operating in a highly competitive environment. It was cash-only.

But the thing that really killed it was that it was a high-end Indian restaurant in a town that just doesn’t get high-end ethnic cuisines. “After a while, you get tired of hearing people say, ‘We don’t eat Indian food,’” Safran said in an interview shortly after it was announced that Bindi would close in September of 2011. She blamed Philadelphians for being unwilling to take a chance on something different. At the time, I didn’t completely buy her argument. Now, I’m not so sure.

That same month saw the opening of Tashan—a second, even higher-end Indian restaurant from Munish Narula, owner of the rather low-end chain of Tiffin restaurants. While the circumstances of Tashan are different, the city is the same. And guess what? Tashan is now struggling, too.

Let me run down Tashan’s numbers for you. It’s a big space: 110 seats on the inside, 34 more in the lounge. It has an impressive wine list and a full bar. It accepts credit cards. Recently, it has gotten a nearly obsessive amount of love from critics. And on an average Tuesday, according to Narula, Tashan is “struggling to get to one turn.” Which is just insane.

Narula chalks this up to a variety of factors. He says the word didn’t get out; that “a lot of people thought Tashan was going to be a fancier Tiffin.” He says the Bella Vista location poses a problem to people—they think it’s “out there”—and because of this, Tashan has become a “destination restaurant.”

But I don’t have to be so polite. I blame this entirely on you.

Right now, Tashan is one of the best Indian restaurants in the country—up there with places like Rasika in Washington, D.C.—but you’re not going. Why? Because you have it in your mind that Indian food ought to be confined to buffets and menus that top out at $10? Because you have to go a couple blocks out of your way to find it? That’s ridiculous.

The only reasonable answer I can think of is unfamiliarity. A city will never embrace the high end of a cuisine before it has become comfortable with the low. People have to have a basic lexicon, which only comes from years of being steeped in puri, masala and saag (or tacos, or sole meunière). Right now, Philly has maybe five years of decent, available low-end Indian food behind it. And maybe that’s just not enough. But I’m asking you to take a risk. To take my word that this is the best (and maybe last) chance you’re going to have to taste Indian food done so well right in your own backyard. Because if Tashan fails, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

And I don’t know if anyone will be crazy enough to try a third time.

Tashan [Official Site]

  • FattyFatMan

    I totally agree.

    Tashan is on par with any of the best high-end Indian restaurants in New York. It’s unique and does something that isn’t being done anywhere else in Philly.

    For dining in Philly, people only seem to be willing to pay for a higher price point for French food and Starr or Garces theatrics (and grudgingly, on occasion, for upscale Italian).

    I was hoping this place would develop into “Osteria south” – a little out of the way from Center City, but worth the trip.

    Let the snarky digs at Tashan commence below.

    • Heather

      I went to Tashan for my birthday… They called the day of to say hey we are having a mixology contest do you mind? We thought it would be bartenders no it was 3 DJ’s literally set up next to our table at 9pm on a Tuesday. I live Indian food, I don’t love eating with a bass beat vibrating my chair… I will skip Tashan apparently it isn’t about the dining experience but the beats a 20 year old can throw down.

      If we had a great dining experience no brainier to go back over and over

    • http://www.msn.com Heather

      I went to Tashan for my birthday… They called the day of to say hey we are having a mixology contest do you mind? We thought it would be bartenders no it was 3 DJ’s literally set up next to our table at 9pm on a Tuesday. I love Indian food, I don’t love eating with a bass beat vibrating my chair… I will skip Tashan apparently it isn’t about the dining experience but the beats a 20 year old can throw down.

      If we had a great dining experience no brainier to go back over and over

    • http://www.msn.com Heather

      I went to Tashan for my birthday… They called the day of to say hey we are having a mixology contest do you mind? We thought it would be bartenders no it was 3 DJ’s literally set up next to our table at 9pm on a Tuesday. I love Indian food, I don’t love eating with a bass beat vibrating my chair… I will skip Tashan it isn’t about the dining experience but the beats a 20 year old can throw down.

      If we had a great dining experience no brainier to go back over and over

  • SouthST

    Didn’t they ever consider that the cost of operating a 144 seat high end ethnic restaurant in a neighborhood that has trouble filling smaller venues on South Street, would be a risk? The cost of running this place on a weeknight when no one comes in must be daunting.

    As soon as Fish became reputable, they fled to 13th street and left Rex 1516, Brick and other smaller venues to try and fill the void.

    I give it 6 more months.

  • Uh huh

    You are totally wrong. Go eat at tamarind in NYC and you will then understand high end Indian food. I’ve eaten at Tashan and it’s trying to be something it’s not. The food is very average.

  • Kathy K

    I love Indian, and hope to get there soon.

  • barryg

    On top of the aversion of high end Indian (overstated by the critics but does exist) and a location that cuts out the tourist, theater and after-work crowds, the food across the board is just not excellent and the service is subpar. The prices are not just high, but higher than many very good Center City restaurants–very few people are going to do ethnic food on expense accounts, and it’s too pricy and scene-y casual weeknight dinners for neighborhood folks (who are not high earners like CC). Add to that other gaffes, like the gimmicky but not practical iPad drink list and not listing prices on the website. It just doesn’t add up.

  • FattyFatMan

    @ Uh Huh

    I’ve been to the Flatiron Tamarind a couple times. I like it. But I honestly like Tashan better. While Tamarind serves chicken tikka masala and lamb vindaloo, Tashan is much more ambitious.

  • blerg

    The location is terrible for the atmosphere and prices they are peddling. It really can’t be brushed off. And yes, the kind of people who fuel high-end, luxury dining in this city are probably by and large from a generation that doesn’t have a taste for Indian food and isn’t about to develop one. Come back in 10 years and it might be a different story.

  • barryg

    The bottom line is that Munish Narula is not Steven Starr, Marc Vetri or Jose Garces… it’s all about the details, especially at that location, and he got too many wrong.

  • Maha

    Agreed!!! you’ve done Indian food lovers a favor by writing this. I hope the city sees that $10 buffets and chicken tikka masalas arent the only things in the repertoire of Indian cuisine.

  • CCKa

    I completely agree as well.

    I have been to Rasika many times in DC and always complained that my home town of Philly lacks a great indian restaurant. Until Tashan opened. I went with a colleague who has also eaten at Rasika and we absolutey loved it. I thought the food excellent and varied with both traditional options as well as new twists to old favorites. I have bragged to friends that we finally have a Rasika in Philly and I will be extremely disappointed if they do not succeed. Where are all the so called foodies in this city?? They are clearly missing the mark with not giving this place a chance.

  • FattyFatMan

    @ Barryg

    I think they got all the details right – the problem is that Philly just isn’t ready for high-end Indian.

    This is a restaurant that NY, DC, or Boston would love to have.

    It’s a shame Philly doesn’t.

  • SouthST

    Good food aside, how did they expect to fill 144 seats? A bit too ambitious? A smaller venue might have been able to conjure up some demand. Would love to see it succeed but each and every reason listed in the comments section is why it won’t.

    There’s an Indian restaurant on 17th and South called “Indian Restaurant” with $10 entrees. They seem to have filled the neighborhood demand for Indian food. Meaning, it’s no Tiffin or Tashan, but I can’t see the same people eating here willing to spend the money to eat at Tashan.

  • barryg

    @FattFatMan,

    Food aside… the place is designed as a theme, destination restaurant a la the Starr places. With that location and price point, I don’t know why Narush is surprised at that, I’m guessing that is the problem. What he expected with those prices in a location adjacent next to subsidized housing? I assure you, Osteria’s business plan did not include many casual weeknight drop-ins from the neighborhood.

    You need to nail the details which the premier restaurateurs do. Last time I was there, on a weeknight, the server complained that our group was keeping him when he was about to be cut… try getting away with that at a Vetri or Starr place. No prices on website is a dick move too. Even Lacroix and The Fountain have prices on the website.

  • Food Phan

    I cant believe so many Heathers all had their birthday on the same day and all had the same experience….really odd.

  • FattyFatMan

    @SouthST

    Again, Tashan isn’t competing with “Indian Restaurant” and it’s not a neighborhood place.

    That’s like saying that Osteria would consider a pizza place selling slices across the street it’s competition. It wouldn’t.

    Tashan was hoping to have a strong city-wide draw, which it should, but it doesn’t.

  • Juliet

    Honestly, I hadn’t heard of Tashan until seeing this Foobooz post on facebook. We finally made it to Bindi for the first time last spring, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was so sorry to see it close before we had a chance to return. My husband and I love to cook, so we prefer to go out for food we couldn’t manage to make well at home — Indian food being one of them. Anyone have any thoughts on how the food at Tashan compares to Bindi’s?

  • SouthST

    “Food Phan Says:
    April 3rd, 2012 at 1:43 pm
    I cant believe so many Heathers all had their birthday on the same day and all had the same experience….really odd.”

    A+

  • rory

    there is no way that a 144 seat indian restaurant that was located in an area with no foot traffic and no other (seriously NO OTHER) reasons to stop there would succeed. In fact, there was little reason to expect anything else regardless of food quality.

    That area of South Broad is not a great comparison to where Osteria located on North Broad–Fairmount/Art Museum has a much larger (and wealthier) captive audience with fewer competing restaurant, and Vetri was making *more* affordable food compared to his other restaurants as compared to Tashan being a serious price upgrade for a restauranteur.

    Tashan as a forty to eighty seater in an area with other restaurants would be far more successful. Basically, Tashan where Bindi/Jamonera was would have been a smash hit. Too big, too quick, wrong location.

    I hope it works out, but to use this as some sort of “HOW DARE YOU?!?” about philly’s food scene is obnoxious and bad evidence. For example, New York is where Paul Liebrandt failed twice. Tabla closed right after Cardoz won top chef masters, etc. Perhaps, if Tashan fails as an overly ambitious, overly large effort, it can return similarly to Liebrandt’s success in his most recent endeavor.

    Tashan’s failed to grab the foodies for a variety of reasons–unfamiliarity isn’t really alone or the main cause–and trying to guilt us won’t accomplish that.

  • 3rd&Brown

    I like Tashan very much. A few of the details are annoying (the wine list on the iPad especially), but otherwise, the food is excellent. I’ve been twice and don’t live anywhere near there. I guess it’s time to go back.

    To be fair, per the location, people canned Sbraga for it’s choice of a spot, and Sbraga is packed. Yes, this is further South, but I think the emptiness is the aversion to Indian food. Let’s face it, the old biddies with the big bucks don’t have the palette for Indian food.

    In the meantime, I’ll keep going.

  • Pete

    I don’t know that I agree with Safran but I get the sentiment from the rest of the article. I had been to Bindi several times and was never impressed with the food. On the other hand, the city has had the relatively upscale Palace at the Ben for a number of years and the place has done terribly. Notwithstanding that its some of the best indian food in town (the owners also have a much more successful NJ location), its empty on weeknights and less than half full on the weekends. I was never sure why that place didn’t get much attention but could see it being as a result of people’s resticence toward trying an upscale indian restaurant.

    I’m hoping to try Tashan soon. I think the primary reasons I wasn’t there sooner was the location and maybe the price.

  • 3rd&Brown

    @Juliet.

    Tashan blows Bindi out of the water.

  • Marilyn

    Instead of blaming the Philly diner, or the restaurant itself, maybe its okay to just acknowledge that times are still tough.

    And while the economy is beginning to improve, high end Indian fare might not be on the top of everyone’s must-have list. You know, with electric bills and gas prices and all.

    It’s tough all around, but I’m surprised at Foobooz going to bat for a restaurant in such a bold way. What’s the going price for an endorsement?

  • 3rd&Brown

    Rory,

    The areas of the Art Museum and Fairmount with $$$ are pretty far from Broad Street. Lest you forget that those establishments on Broad are surrounded on 2 sides by ghetto/projects, 1 side by nothing, and 1 side by the least affluent part of Fairmount.

    I’d argue that being at the nexus of Graduate Hospital/Bella Vista/and the near to the nicest parts of South Philly (Passyunk) and the southern residential neighborhoods of Center City (Wash West/Rittenhouse) is a much better gamble than North Broad.

    But Munish Narula is not Marc Vetri.

  • FattyFatMan

    @ Marilyn

    “I’m surprised at Foobooz going to bat for a restaurant in such a bold way. What’s the going price for an endorsement?”

    Right, Foobooz was paid for this write up which basically says that the restaurant is struggling and not able to make ends meet.

    Tashan also probably paid all of the other critics who wrote glowing reviews.

    It’s all a big conspiracy to get you to come and eat malai kofta lollipops.

  • Oscar

    Let’s not bash Philadelphia on this one. The execution of this concept is flawed at best. The waitstaff is clueless. The iPads are just plain annoying. And for the prices they are charging, why the hell would I want to sit at a communal table???

    Whoever designed and implemented Tashan fumbled the ball. Before we blame Philadelphia as being not ready for Tashan, let’s lay the blame on the folks who executed this concept. They were clearly not up to the task of creating a high-end restaurant experience, let alone a high-end ethnic restaurant.

  • FattyFatMan

    Philly gets blamed for this one.

    People would overlook the iPad wine lists, service missteps, and location being a couple blocks out of the way if they were truly excited by the food/concept, which they should be, but aren’t.

    • Joyce B

      I don’t get why everyone is so upset about the iPad wine lists…

  • SouthST

    @FattyFatMan

    I’m not comparing Tashan to a $10 entree restaurant. I’m stating that 144 seats in the type of neighborhood that goes for $10 entree restaurants is too ambitious. If their intent is a destination restaurant, do they think over 100 people will “travel South” to dine each night? Not likely, so why go so big?

    @Rory post #22

    EXACTLY

  • SouthST

    “Tashan as a forty to eighty seater in an area with other restaurants would be far more successful. Basically, Tashan where Bindi/Jamonera was would have been a smash hit. Too big, too quick, wrong location.”

    Bingo

  • rory

    @3rd and Brown: I live 2 blocks away from Osteria, so I know the area well (and while my part of Fairmount is less affluent, it’s also far younger and has disposable income and not as many kids). And while the tonier parts of Fairmount are further away, the gentrification had spread all the way to the condos above Osteria before Osteria opened. I’m also pretty sure Vetri got a good deal opening a restaurant there.

    While Tashan might have be a better location in some respects, it’s also competing with a lot more high end restaurants in the area around it.

    and as others have noted, there were a lot of other errors–errors that would have killed a project like Osteria as well–and you noted it as well. Vetri could have put a restaurant where Tashan is and succeeded, not only because his food isn’t “ethnic,” but also because he wouldn’t make some of the critical mistakes re: service, concept, architecture, etc.

  • barryg

    @Fatty, no 110 seat restaurant with fancy decor succeeds on food alone. People get excited about the experience (and marketing). That’s why the details matter. This is not a Philly thing, in fact it’s more true in NYC than here. If Starr didn’t constantly provide a fun atmosphere and great service, he wouldn’t have such success. Note that Osteria has a rustic feel and the PR of “Vetri’s more affordable little brother,” so despite of actually being pretty expensive, people think they are getting value. Tashan’s too-cool lounge vibe and marketing based around obscure Indian celebrities doesn’t do the same.

    The whole “if you don’t love the food here something is wrong with you” line also doesn’t work as well here as it does it scene-obsessed New York.

  • barryg

    3rd&Brown, Sbraga is right by the theaters, Tashan’s location is much more challenging. Not mention it’s much cheaper–$45 prix fixe versus $65.

  • Josh

    I’ll admit that cheap Indian food, even though I eat it often, is still exotic enough that, when I’m in the mood for Indian, I’m content with Tiffin. I’d give Tashan a shot as a destination meal, but it has a few strikes against it–location, price point, and menu layout. People have already talked about the location–regarding the price point, I can get out of Koozeedoo or Kanella for $40-50, Bibou for $70-90, and it sounds like Tashan could be $70 or more. I’d be much more likely to try it in the $50-70 range.
    Regarding the menu, the small plates concept stresses me out. Tashan has 39 menu items, not including dessert, and it’s not clear to me how much I’d need to order. I’m a control freak and don’t like the fact I can’t come up with a rough plan in advance. I’d be more likely to go with a prix fixe option, or if dishes were broken out more clearly into appetizers/main dishes where I could order one of each and be done. Amada has never done it for me for the same reason (though they do have prix fixe options). Maybe I’m too uptight, but I’d rather have to make fewer decisions.

    All told, I just think the concept wasn’t executed well, as others have said. Tashan’s on my list of places to try, but there are other places I want to try that I’ll probably get to first because I have fewer reservations about them.

  • JB

    They need lunch specials and/or a lunch buffet if people become familiar with their food they will want to go back there.

    Maybe some happy hour specials to get people in the door, try some apps and like what they try so they will spend more. Set it up like Sampan’s happy hour.

    Also, why not try a tasting menu during the week? This would definitely get me in the door.

  • mr

    Meh. Tashan not that great. Bindi was better.

  • All4Philly

    Is Tashan getting the same sweetheart deal on rent that Osteria did?

    BTW, Bindi was a joke.

  • JerseyGirl

    It just felt like a bit of a rip-off to be honest. And I don’t mind spending money. I just dislike feeling “had”

  • Buckethead

    Pretending that Tashan is 100% pure awesome and anyone who doesn’t love it just isn’t an it-getter isn’t going to save it. Acknowledging and fixing its many flaws might. #1 for me is the price. Leave the food aside for a moment, at a place that costs this much I should not have to drink my coffee black because no one brought the cream I asked for (twice). I shouldn’t be waiting 20 minutes to pay the bill. I shouldn’t be able to stump the server asking about a dish. Not when, as has been pointed out, I can go to most of the city’s best restaurants and spend less for a better experience (and food).

    When Narula says “a lot of people thought Tashan was going to be a fancier Tiffin”, I can’t tell whether he means people wanted a fancier Tiffin, but if they do, he should consider giving it to them.

  • lonleyJam15

    I have been to Tashan twice and it is awesome. These two visits were some of the best meals I have had regardless of cuisine. Tashan is however not cheap. It is the kind of place that I would go to once a year regularly, but not much more then that given the expense.
    One thing that would seem to be in the places favor would be the big parking lot at 777, but the valets do not park your car there and will not tell you where they park your car. This is exceptionally sketchy for some people given some of the surrounding neighborhood. I have had a colleague go park in center city and take a cab back down because of this.
    It also seems like a huge mistake not to have built the restaurant on the north corner of 777 instead of the south. When you are coming down broad the sign for Tashan should be what you see.

  • Honest Injun

    I haven’t been, but just reading the menu turned me off. When you can’t tell by reading the menu whether you even think you’re going to like a dish or not, it’s a tough sell. At least at a “fancier Tiffin” the customer would have some idea of what s/he’s ordering. It’s the kind of food that could easily be delicious or fall flat – who likes taking that kind of a gamble, especially at high prices?

  • Tex

    So, to summarize: I like X. Philadelphia diners aren’t going to X. Therefore, Philadelphia diners are to blame.

  • Victor Fiorillo

    Some of the food at Tashan (especially the seafood) is fantastic and unlike anything else in Philadelphia.

  • Michael G

    The location here is tough(I mean they might get a few tables every night from the spillover from Popeye’s), the price point high and the food ambitious to the point of needing everything else to be perfect. From the comments i can tell the service, marketing and all the other fine details aren’t perfect. To blame the City is off base and reeks of either elitism by the writer or playing into the inferiority complex of Philadelphia. I would be more likely to go there if you wowed me with their food and not by telling me how we don’t get IT because you get IT.

  • Steve

    This article is a joke and why Jason Sheehan is frequently mocked in the comments section. Yes….after being “yelled at” in an article for not getting it and being the reason that this place is failing, I’m suddenly going want to try this restaurant. I hate to tell you this Jason, but you just did more harm than good by insulting potential diners. I can say with 100% certainty that Tashan just lost a potential customer on your behalf.

  • MyInput

    I have nothing to say about this topic. Carry on…

  • Mark

    I had dinner at Tashan when it first opened. After touring 777 Apartments, the building in which Tashan is located, I decided to have dinner and a drink at the bar. The bartender was rude and cocky. The food was average and served in incredibly small portions for the price. Shortly after arriving home about 30 minutes I became sick and throw up. Needless to say I never returned.

  • Dan

    hmmmmm, Rasika has about half the seats, is in a better area, makes better food, and costs well less. It is a wonder that they are succeeding where tashan is failing…

  • Dan

    Of course, anyone that actually thinks jason cares if this restaurant survives, is trying to drive traffic there or really thinks this is a great concept that is simply being ignored is an idiot. Feel slightly bad for the owner because I’m sure he was fooled into thinking these folks actually care. The truth is this is an easy way to drive traffic to the site. Pretty simple formula, call your audience simpletons in print, have them fume in the comments section, get more hits, get more google Ads. There is a reason F-cab gets some much virtual ink here, and its not b/c these folks really care about the place…

  • Ken

    I have not eaten at Tashan yet. My first experience w/ Indian food was a few weeks ago at IndeBlue in Collinsgwood, NJ. It was delicious. Most entrees under $20.00. I don’t know if they serve authentic Indian food or not (I have nothing to compare it to). What I can say is that every time I go there, the place is packed.

    I am guilty. I have always thought about Indian food as inexpensive but delicious ‘street food’. I have no qualms about dropping some major bank on a ‘upscale’ steak, tapas or Italian joint in Philly. I just don’t know about an upscale Indian restaurant. I’m going to have to check out Tashan and compare it to IndeBlue to see what I am/ am not missing.

  • Daytime Drinker.

    …….because if you put lipstick on a pig it is still a pig.

    Tashan is barely “Indian”.

    On the scope of what is achievable with modern interpretation of Indian flavors it is BORING.

    Any restaurant whose sole existence is dependent on a real estate deal will close.

    Tashan can no possibly last beyond this summer and it has nothing to do with what “Philly is ready for”.

    It is just a sign that people are starting to think for themselves instead of flocking to restaurants like lemmings because of Laban reviews.

    The moral of the story is if you build a huge glossy restaurant with average food that is overpriced…….even the fact that Craig Laban gives you 3 bells won’t save you.

    The people have spoken.

  • Uh huh

    @ mike I mean daytime drinker. You nailed it. Nothing more needs to be said.

  • Bob

    I don’t know about the quality or taste, or really much else when it comes to this restaurant.

    What I will say is this; while this looks and sounds like a restaurant I’d very much enjoy, if your website doesn’t have the prices on the menu, thus giving me absolutely no way to get even a rough idea of how much dinner will probably cost, I will likely never go.

  • g-ho res

    I’m a neighborhood resident and have been a few times–for the brunch preview, for dinner, and for snacks/drinks at the bar. I don’t get the complaints in the above comments about the food. I’ve had the chance to try about half the menu so far, and have been consistently really impressed in line with the reviews Sheehan mentions.

    The comments about the details, however, I totally get. The ipad drink list just didn’t work. It was dirty and cumbersome, and several drinks didn’t have useful descriptions or even photos. The servers have not been up to the level I would expect, or hope for, for foods that are not familiar. We went there for a drink on Valentine’s day, and the place was mobbed– with angry people waiting for their tables. I overheard the hostess telling people, who had reservations, that they would be delayed by an hour. That just can’t happen.

    I really, really want this place to succeed. And I will continue to go as budget allows. But it needs to improve the experience to have any chance at survival.

  • Jacques

    I heard that they don’t even serve cheesesteaks, so as a dumb Philadelphian, why would I go there?

    Don’t you know that we hate high-end ethnic food? Excuse me, I have to go try again to make a reservation at Zahav – it seems they don’t have anything available for weeks.

  • Daytime Drinker.

    Joyce B

    Cellphones and i-pads harbor more bacteria than a toilet.

    It’s just cumbersome and gross.

    They are trying to be slick and modern but it just comes off as profoundly silly.

    • http://philadelphia.foobooz.com Foobooz

      As an FYI, Osteria now offers iPads of its wine list.

  • Jimmy

    I like Tashan.

  • Stretford Dog

    Looking at the comments here, and comments around the web about this place, I don’t think very many people would choose to go there on their own. A couple of raves, followed by a couple of real stinkers, and so on. Any place that portrays itself as a fine dining experience needs to have overwhelmingly positive reviews. It really sucks to leave a restaurant feeling ‘ripped off’ or mightily disappointed. Why take the chance when there are so many other fine places to drop $150-200 on dinner? And, why take the chance on ruining a night out that is a special occasion? The service comments are right on – completely unacceptable. Sure, Philly is to blame, but I would contend that diners here are pretty savvy, and they are not going to accept a crappy experience, despite the quality of the food. Last point, Indian Restaurant on South St. is really excellent. Here’s a case where I am very happy to be a regular, not just because I love the food, but the service is great and very welcoming and accommodating. But, anyone who thinks that even ‘regular’ Indian food is under-$10 inexpensive anymore is off base. Dinner for 2 at EKTA, Tiffin, and others approaches $60 these days.

  • 3rd&Brown

    First off, if in this comment section you mentioned 1. you’d rather just order from Tiffin or 2. Bindi is better than Tashan, you’ve completely discredited yourself because 1. EKTA blows Tiffin out of the water and 2. Bindi paled in comparison to this place.

    Everyone’s a critic in this town. You all are the same people who said Federal Donuts and Sbraga would never make it because of their respective locations. Now, we have people explaining about why those concepts are successful and this one is not.

    You all need to get a grip. If you go into a place and you only focus on what it doesn’t do well, well then, you’re never going to be happy. Every restaurant has missteps. I’ve been to this place twice. Aside from the clunky iPad, everything on the menu was delicious. And they’re small portions, so that explains why you don’t get a lot of food for your $10-$13 “entree”. How many times have I heard a person complain about the portion sizes at X (Distrito, Barbuzzo, Amis)? Well no shit sherlock. That’s why you’re supposed to order 2-3 plates per person.

  • Kate

    Bullying people into going to a restaurant is just immature. I can make delicious indian food at home for mere pennies.

  • barryg

    @3rd & Brown, Tashan is twice the size of Sbraga–110+34 seats vs 65+bar–and more expensive–$60 tasting menu vs $45. If Sbraga was the size of Tashan and charging the same prices, they probably would not be doing well either. Not to mention that it is walking distance to theaters and easy/feels safe for tourists to go to.

    This concept, with the size and prices what they are, would be a tough sell anywhere in the city. The tasting menu at Zahav is only $35 or so, you can get tastings at Amada for $45… Narula gave himself a huge challenge and he needs to do better to succeed. All this ignoring the fact that outside of a sliver of the fooderati a lot of people have found the food itself hit or miss, not amazing. When someone tells that a place was only pretty good but expensive, it falls on the “to try” list. Yes Osteria is a similar size, price, and location, but it is quite suitable for family gatherings, business meetings, and near the convention center. No one is taking their business clients out to a sexy lounge vibe with a menu that doesn’t have broad appeal like Italian food.

  • Mike

    I’ve been wanting to try it, but convincing friends to drop a benjamin on small portion Indian food is impossible.

  • Daytime Drinker.

    @Foobooz

    Osteria using I-pad wine lists isn’t going to change anyone’s mind who thinks it is silly and dirty. Unless someone is wiping the Ipads with antibacterial spray it basically is operating and close to Petrie dish temperature.
    Knowing how well people wash their hands these days I am never going to touch an i-pad in a restaurant.

  • rory

    @3rd and brown (and to add to barryg): further, not only is Sbraga closer to tourists, but Sbraga himself is a draw FOR TOURISTS (as a top chef winner). I think more of the foodie complaints re: Sbraga when the location was announced were because the location indicated he might be just trying to use his fame to draw tourists to food that wasn’t particularly inventive or exciting and he wouldn’t have to be there much. That doesn’t appear to be the case, which is nice.

    And I’d challenge the idea that osteria is the same price. It’s expensive, but for a table of two, it’s enough to buy two pizzas and be satisfied, portion-wise. That’s far cheaper (in total) for someone.

    everyone in EVERY town is a critic. that’s something restaurants need to be ready for–service, portion size, everything. Tashan’s service problems, its architecture, its oversized menu, its website, its pricing, its early PR (the ipad thing was a warning sign to me–that’s not why i want to try a new high end indian place, but it was advertised everywhere) and its location all smell of someone who didn’t know the high end restaurant model before opening one. Hopefully he learns, because I enjoyed the food when I was there and if it could fix as many of the other problems as possible, I’d like for it to stay around.

    I’ll admit i was wrong about fed donuts–i did think the location wasn’t good. I still do (and haven’t been because of it), but it’s not comparable: donuts and friend chicken vs. high end indian? a small shop with limited quantity vs. a 100+ seat restaurant? cmon.

  • Mike

    I’m sure “philly isn’t ready for it” is a handy excuse, but the reality is that they took a big gamble on location, size, price/portions, atmosphere, and concept.

    Osteria, Zahav, and Chifa are all restaurants that overcame some of these issues. Even Morimoto, when it first opened, seemed like a gamble for a large, high end restaurant in a location not known for dining.

  • barryg

    Why can’t they just cut prices to bit to put it inline with Zahav and restaurants at that level? And make the Happy Hour a deal actually worth traveling for (right now nothing is less than $7, and nobody works near there)? Does he really need to fill 100+ tables 6 nights a week at those prices to make this place work? If so, something is very wrong with this picture.

  • Brian

    Not to beat a dead horse but 144 seats in a “sexy lounge” vibe puts a real shelf life on the concept, no matter the city.

    That being said I root for this place & the idea that a high end Indian restaurant can thrive in Philly.

  • rebecca

    Am I missing something? How on earth are iPad wine lists any dirtier than traditional menus? At least iPads can be wiped down, and a paper menu cannot.

    That being said, I haven’t gone to Tashan and likely won’t go anytime soon. Expensive small plates is one of my pet peeves about dining out. This hungry cheap-o can’t wait until that trend is over.

  • jay

    Rebecca,
    I was wondering the same thing. I think what he’s saying is that because IPads are “on” and thus warm, that helps keep bacteria alive/grows bacteria more than a traditional wine list that’s at room temperature. I would think that’s a pretty simple fix of wiping an anti bacterial wipe, but who knows.

  • Om

    I have eaten there three times and loved it every single time. Did any one stop to think that prices are probably higher because they are using more expensive raw materials that is not found in other Indian restaurants. Try finding Venison, Quail, Scallops and Kobe Beef in any other Indian restaurant.

    Tashan was a semi finalists for james beard award for best new restaurant in the country along with Farm and fisherman. Guess that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention to detail and have poor execution.

  • Buckethead

    @Om:

    The problem for me (and many others on this thread apparently) regarding Tashan’s prices is not that it’s much more expensive than your average Indian restaurant. I’d expect that, based on the ingredients used and the space. It’s that it’s more expensive than your average 3 or 4-bell Philly restaurant: Zahav, Bibou, Kanella, Koo Zee Doo, Vedge, Osteria (depending on how you order), and a few other places are both better and less expensive than Tashan. And all of them have better service and location.

  • ME

    Some of the more thoughtful comments posted about the “mechanics” of the restaurant business should be heeded by Tashan, and I suspect they will be. Thanks to those who offer “constructive” and reasonable suggestions in an effort to aid in the success of a new establishment. In my opinion, Tashan; and for that matter, many new food ventures in the city, merits this consideration.
    My dining partner and I had a wonderful experience here beginning with the friendly and accommodating hostess, the knowledgeable and patient server, Patrick, and the amazing food. Does Mr. Narula have some work to do to refine, redefine in some cases, and other important business decisions to consider….yes! Clearly, he needs to bring in customers. WE, for two, are cheering him on because the thought of never tasting the Malai Kofta Lollypops again is too much to bear. Yukon potato, Paneer, 9 spices, cashew-tomato sauce. This one is CRAZY good! Greaseless, very thin crusted ball shaped morsels, meltingly soft on the inside…chewing not necessary, in fact we advise against it….let each bite, which has been dipped in a wonderfully nutty slightly tomatoey, sauce, sit on the tongue and melt in to the rest of the mouth. Oral ecstasy! Good luck, Tashan!

  • Mike

    Rebecca/Jay: I think it’s mostly paranoid germophobia. On a paper menu, people just pick it up, where with the ipad wine list, people are dragging their fingers across the screen, leaving visible smudges, fingerprints, and streaks.

    If the staff just gave it a quick wipe with a microfiber cloth between tables and hit it with windex every day, it wouldn’t hurt.

  • Om

    @Buckethead:

    I absolutely do not agree with that, our three meals there were no more than 35 to 40 dollars per person for food only (obviously, the total was higher with alcohol, taxes and gratuity). That price for high end food and setting is more than fair. Also, we had very good service all three times.

    The part that amuses me is that people are bitching about the place and prices but have never even been there, at least you ate there.

    @ME:

    Couldn’t agree with you more, so maybe the place is not perfect but then again no restaurant or business is.

    Like the Kofta but for me the kobe kabob takes the cake.

  • Felicia

    To say that Tashan isn’t doing well because it is an ethnic restaurant is damaging. I’ve been to Tashan and I enjoyed it. I think it’s casual and trendy but not high-end or expensive. Despite living in walking distance of Tashan it’s still out of the way. The area isn’t very safe at night. If I am in that area I amm specifically there because of the restaurant.

    Everyone I dine there Tashan doesn’t seem very busy. Rather than touting it as the great restaurant nobody wants to go to, why not contour focusing on the quality of the food and the nice design of the place or the wine list.

    A friend of mine was in town and I thought of good places to have dinner that night. Tashan popped onto my mind and then I remembered Philly mag said people don’t go there. Guess what? I took my friend to a different restaurant. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has made that decision based on what has been said. Are you trying to run Tashan out of business? Focus on the positive. If you really like Tashan focus on the positive and promote it or better yet, say nothing about Tashan at all…………

  • Jimmy

    Felicia, I’m fairly certain this piece WAS intended to promote Tashan and to create a buzz.

  • indianfoodsnob

    it’s no wonder it’s failing, when you consider there is a trader joe’s selling delicious and authentic indian cuisine in their freezer section less than a mile away!

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