Chef Jake Rojas is Ready to Impress: Tallulah on Thames


I can’t believe it has taken me this long, but I finally had the pleasure of visiting Tallulah on Thames…and it turned out to be an unforgettable experience. It is something I should have done much sooner (no excuses here)! I have heard the buzz about this restaurant since it originally opened in 2010, with many people saying that it deserves to be considered one of the top restaurants in Rhode Island. Chef Jake Rojas, originally from El Paso, is a classically trained chef who has worked at some of the nation’s premier restaurants from California, to Vegas, to Florida, and now Newport. His resume includes being Sous Chef at “Joel Robuchon at the Mansion” at MGM in Las Vegas named after…you know, the legendary JOEL ROBUCHON! Another noteworthy bulletpoint on his impressive resume is being Chef de Partie at Alain Ducasse’s “Mix” at Mandalay Bay…and his list of credentials go on and on.

The atmosphere at Tallulah on Thames is warm and inviting. This charming restaurant, located in an old New England style home, will make you feel as if you were transported in time. They have preserved most of the original architecture including the hardwood floors and white tin ceiling. Surrounded by crystal chandeliers, antique mirrors, and other Victorian style decor, this cozy yet sophisticated setting takes you back to the early days of Historic Newport.

To start our meal, we were served some warm bread with the most beautiful stick of butter known to man…or even Paula Deen for that matter. I remember saying, “boy, if this is what the butter looks like, then we must be in for a treat.” I was right. You will notice that the presentation is precise with the microgreens and fleur de lys methodically arranged. This turned out to be a common theme throughout our entire meal as Chef Rojas has an uncanny attention to detail, almost OCD-like (in a good way). :)

For our first course, we ordered the Hudson Valley Fois Gras with Rosemary Waffles, Hazelnut Vinaigrette, Butternut Squash, and Apple (shown in main picture at top of page). This whimsical appetizer showed Chef Rojas’ imaginative side. It was a clever spin on chicken and waffles, or should I say a more upscale version using Foie Gras and Rosemary waffles in this case. I would have never dreamed of combining the two, but it was genius! The Hazelnut Vinaigrette brought all the flavors together to make this a must-try if you visit!

Native Monkfish with lentils du puy, bacon, carrot, pearl onions, sunchoke, orange and celery salads

The monkfish was masterfully prepared. Both soft and delicate, the texture melted in my mouth. This dish was loaded with complex flavors and each new bite was different from the last. My favorite was the combination of the light, subtle monkfish with the smoky and deliciously fatty pork belly.

Painted Hills Farm Ribeye with Pommes Robuchon, Fall vegetables, onion confit, carrot, and beef jus.

The Ribeye was cooked to a perfect medium rare. Chef Rojas wisely allowed the steak to rest before cutting and plating which caused it to remain juicy (rather than bleed out). I hate to use cliches, but the steak was incredibly tender and cut like butter…there’s really no other way to explain it. Sitting on top of Pommes Robuchon, named after Joel Robouchon’s famous rendition, it is an amazing blend of half butter and half potato which creates the creamiest, richest potatoes you will ever taste!

Butternut Squash Financier with hazulnut ganache, nutella powder, and white chocolate tuille

After tasting this Butternut Squash Financier, it immediately moved up in the “Front Row Eats rankings” as one of the best desserts we have ever tried. It was the perfect balance of savory and sweet. The Butternut Squash, which is rarely seen on dessert menus, was creamy and luscious and left me wondering why the ingredient seldom appears on plates post-dinner.

The nutella powder was an inventive technique to serve this hazelnut spread in an unfamiliar way. By using maltodextrin, it created a powder for the nutella which was sprinkled on top of the fluffy cake. And let’s not forget the white chocolate tuille on the side. Overall, this was a very unique and special dessert that I urge you to try!

Deconstructed Apple Tart – short bread, gala apple, pecan crumb, salted caramel, vanilla bean gelato

I loved the idea of a Deconstructed Apple Tart with all of the usual ingredients scattered throughout the plate and presented in a new way. My favorite part was the dehydrated apple which was delicately placed on top of vanilla bean gelato. The apple was thinly sliced, then dehydrated, then dipped in a simple syrup, and then dehydrated again, creating the crispiest apple slice imaginable. It’s commendable the amount of time and care Tallulah on Thames puts into each single ingredient…and this is a great example.

I was amazed to learn that Tallulah on Thames doesn’t have a pastry chef, especially since they are preparing desserts of this caliber. I am even more impressed that Chef Rojas and his entire kitchen are well-rounded in both areas, allowing them to serve exquisite desserts on the same level as their dinner plates.

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In the end, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Tallulah on Thames. Very rarely do you leave a restaurant without a single complaint…but in all honesty, I can’t even think of one critique based on the dishes I tried. Throughout the night, my eyes were drawn to their open kitchen. I watched an entire line of cool, calm, collected chefs with Zen-like movements who worked together as a team, never seeming frazzled. Chef Rojas and Kelly Ann (aka Tallulah) have created a restaurant that strives for perfection in every plate and it was evident throughout my entire meal. Again, I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to visit Tallulah on Thames, but I can promise you that I will be back again very soon!

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