Talula’s Garden: 'Passion Is Evident in Every Last Detail'

Aimee Olexy and Stephen Starr’s Philadelphia restaurant is racking up the accolades, from the seasonal ingredients to the sustainable vintages to the service.

Caramelized Maine sea scallops. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)“These are my babies,” says Aimee Olexy as she presents a slate of rare cheeses at Talula’s Garden, her new venture with the prolific Stephen Starr in Center City’s Washington Square. Like Talula’s Table in Kennett Square—the much-praised farm-to-table restaurant that put Olexy on the international culinary map—passion is evident in every last detail of this chic urban oasis, from the outstanding service to the meticulously plated seasonal cuisine.

In August, executive chef Matt Moon (Django, Talula’s Table, Restaurant Alba) took over the kitchen for Michael Santoro. But after two weeks, Moon was out, and a replacement had yet to be named at press time.

Not that any of this mattered on our visit. Every starter—from a colorful, summery garden salad with local feta, almonds and fresh almond-milk dressing, to the braised rabbit with handkerchief pasta, green olives and fava beans—was a work of art, visually and otherwise.

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Entrées fared just as well. The glazed lobster tail with barbecued pork belly, corn and lima beans was an inspired take on surf and turf. A simple piece of chicken was thoroughly transformed when paired with a creamy bulgur wheat risotto, hazelnuts and mushrooms.

Über fresh, à la carte seasonal veggies like baby beets with almonds and herbs and the summer succotash were great for sharing. And while the extensive wine list gets props for featuring nothing but sustainable vintages, the reasonably priced cocktails are where it’s at. Whether you eat in the classy yet relaxed dining room or outside in the lovely courtyard surrounded by starry white lights, this is one serious garden of delights.

210 W. Washington Square, Philadelphia; talulasgarden.com, (215) 592-7787.

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