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29 July, 2010

Tallulas (Downtown Chapel Hill)

Posted in : Dining in Chapel Hill - NC, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez

456 W. Franklin Street
Downtown Chapel Hill
Pizzas/Mezzes: $7–$12
Entrees: $15–22

Tallulas is a formal Turkish restaurant in the evening that transforms into more of a bar/lounge from 10 PM onward. We were there for the dinner service when a variety of small plates, Turkish-style pizzas, and full entrees are available. The décor was lush, but I may be prejudiced as Moorish lamps and patterns are my favorite interior design style. The lighting was dim with a red sheen. Light wood walls were covered in giant rugs, and classical Turkish music played.

Tallulas has a great drink list, and my Visne Vodka was a near-perfect cocktail. The bread served seemed too thick to be lavash, so it might have been tandir, but whatever it was was delicious: crispy on the outside, soft and warm on the inside. The accompanying dipping oil seemed to have a citrus tang to it or maybe some sort of sweet roasted pepper (piquillo?), but it may have been an herb I couldn’t place.

My husband and I shared an appetizer, a platter of red lentil patties made with bulgur, Antep pepper, scallions, mint, and parsley, and served with a row of tomato slices. It was called mercimek koftesi.

It was served cold and was really refreshing with the weather we’ve had of late. The consistency was like hummus, except solid enough that the patties kept their shape. The scallion slices and parsley were especially flavorful, but the lentil mellowed them nicely. I couldn’t taste the pepper, but I didn’t feel as though I missed out on anything.

For my entrée, I had the yogurtlu kebablar, a chicken kebob baked with a tomato and yogurt sauce and toasted bread cubes.

The yogurt contributed a welcome element of coolness to the warm dish. The chicken was delicate and marinated with great herbs and had plenty of char from the grill. Bread cubes gave the sauce, which had a sweet and mild vinegar flavor, a great texture so it did not seem soupy. Somehow, all these elements came together to give it the flavor of artichoke hearts-I don’t know how, but it did! Since I like artichoke hearts, I had no complaints, only praise.

My husband had the yabrak doner kebabi, a style of cooking lamb that sounded similar to schwarma (cooked and marinated on a skewer). They only prepare it on weekends.

It was also served with a tomato sauce. My husband thought it was good. Our friends had the adana kebabi and another style of lamb kebab, which they both liked well enough, but they determined that Turkish food is not their favorite cuisine, though my friend adored a fish dish she had at Tallulas in the past. They did say the sides that came with their meals could be livened up.

I could not pass up trying the kunefe for dessert, which consists of shredded wheat wrapped around hatay cheese, then baked with a mulberry syrup and topped with pistachios.

I thought it was great, though it could have used more of the cheese to give it a creamier center. The wheat was nicely browned and tasted yummy soaked in the syrup, though I can’t say I tasted mulberry at all, but I don’t know that I’d recognize it if I did. It was a fun dessert, regardless.

For me, with the atmosphere and the great food, Tallulas would be a chocolate truffle, my four-star rating, with my friends opting for three-star instead. But I have to knock them down a point because the service was really, really, slow from the moment we stepped in the door. We waited 15 to 20 minutes to be seated while the restaurant was nearly empty, and each step of the ordering process thereafter took forever. The server was very knowledgeable in the cuisine, but we spent far too long waiting to order drinks, order food, order dessert, get our checks, et cetera. I’m rarely in a dining rush so when it’s slow enough that I notice, it’s worth a point off.

That said, if you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, Tallulas is totally worth spending an evening at. Plus, I could feel happy in that ambiance all night.

3 stars

3 stars

Reviewed 7.16.10.

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