Location: 118 Entrada Dr, Santa Monica, CA 90402. (310) 526-0027
Date: May 28 & September 9, 2017
Cuisine: Contemporary Mexican
Rating: Tasty flavors, tiny portions, awkward service
Tallulah’s is a new “updated” Mexican spot in the same location as the old Marix – a kid oriented old school Mexican joint. I had high hopes as the new place is run by the group that brings us Rustic Canyon, Cassia, Sweet Rose, Milo & Olive, and Huckleberry.
They haven’t changed much since the Marix days except for opening the windows and getting rid of the koi pond in the middle. The building is a bit odd anyway as on the exterior it is Japanese (must have been a Japanese restaurant in the 80s or something) but rustic and beach like in the middle. The space was loud before and somehow even louder.
The bar has been repainted and switched over from old school Margarita’s to “mixologist” cocktails.
Strawberry Margarita. Tapatio Blanco Tequila, Fresh Lime, Strawberry Puree, Agave. This was an insipid and totally awful take on a non-frozen Strawberry Margarita. It just tasted like mild strawberry water. It was so disappointing I went out to the store afterward and bought ingredients to make a proper Strawberry Margarita the new day for Memorial Day.
Paloma. Tapatio Blanco Tequila, Aperol, Housemade Grapefruit Syrup, Steigl Grapefruit Raddler, Peychauds Bitters. Much better than the Margarita, but very light. Tasted like grapefruit soda and I finished it in about 2 seconds.
A Cadillac margarita (9/17). Pretty good, but at least $18 (might have been more).
(9/17) A smokey slushy drink that was pretty tasty too.
The menu. One of those menus were I had absolutely no idea what would actually come for anything I ordered. Yeah I saw the ingredients but I had no way to imagine how they were prepped. Things were even more different (and smaller) than I expected.
chile fundido. panela & oaxaca cheeses, blue corn tortillas. $12. I basically wanted chili con queso. This tiny dish had some cheese in it, but I hadn’t expected it to be fundamentally “red” (tomato? pepper?). It was fine, but as I expected, not what I expected.
Nachos “sencillo” (9/17). The “other” cheese snack, very similar to the first one, but with fried chips. Neither is actually as good as a great chili con queso.
Guacamole, salsa, & chips. Pretty good quac, but you do have to pay $11 for it.
Grilled baja halibut tacos. mexican sauerkraut. malt aioli, epazote. I don’t normally complain about prices, but this was $18! Lol. And where is the halibut? They tasted fine, like nice coleslaw tacos.
mexican white shrimp. rancho gordo hominy polenta, anahein chile, leek, salsa de madre. Shrimp and grits! Again not exactly what I expected. I thought maybe bigger prawns. I think there were 3 regular cocktail shrimp in here for $18. Decently tasty but swamped out by the grits.
duck cilaquiles. duck confit, cracklings, beans, queso fresco & jack, sauce colorado and organic egg. $19! Mostly it was chips soaked in a duck ragu. It was the best dish, and quite tasty, but so chip heavy it felt like eating matza brie.
arroz poblano. Green rice, spring vegetables, saffron aioli. $17. A sort of green light risotto. Not creamy at all (not that it needed to be, but to distinguish it from real risotto). Not bad, but kinda pricey for rice.
Organic turkey enchiladas (9/17). black recado sauce, quinoa, shaved cabbage, cotija. Pretty good enchiladas, entirely because of the sauce (which was a bit like a mole). Not sure the quinoa added.
Monterey squid (9/17). spicy eggplant, kohlrabi, peaches, purple basil.
Grassfed hanger steak carne asada (9/17). shaved onion, padron peppers, chipotle, tortillas. Tasty meat with a bit of a kick. $33 though.
Vanilla rum flan (9/17). poached pears. Solid flan.
Service was pretty lousy on my first visit. They are a brand new restaurant, and having done it, I know organizing good service is hard. But they are a very experienced group. We were seated fairly quickly (in the bar) but they took 20-30 minutes to come by. Then took only the drink order. That took another 20+ minutes to come. Had to almost grab their hand to put int he food order. That came quickly, but all brought by different people. Hard to find the server. Mandatory 19% auto-grat.
Drinks need serious work. Bartenders are very slow. There were several of them and both my drink orders took more than 20 minutes each.
On my second visit drink service was much swifter, although they still took a mysteriously long time between taking the drink order (and bringing them) and taking our food order. The waiter himself was absent for a good stretch. Once we ordered it came fast.
Food was fairly tasty but portions were way smaller than I expected using the price as a guide. Good thing I always over order. Menu needs a serious rewrite because without even the slightest suggestion of prep method you can’t imagine what you are going to get. Also, like many of the restaurants in this group, there is nothing even vaguely kid focused. The flavor combinations are such that most kids wouldn’t touch a thing on here — yet the basic concept, the previous restaurant, and the location are all highly child focused. So parents will bring them (saw it in action) and be disappointed. Of course, as I know from experience, they probably don’t want kids because their cover average is so much lower. sigh. But I’d have to see the cheese quesadilla from their kids menu to know if it was plain enough that I could come here with mine.
Only way to park is $9 valet.
I’ll try it again, as it’s close and this is a very good group and they just opened, but management needs to tune things up even more, and I’d like some more things on the menu without tortilla, and some playful takes on favorites (like a real chili con queso).