Mark Tarbell's The Tavern: The Biltmore 'Hood Gets Caviar, Lobster Rolls, and Lamb Burgers
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Evie Carpenter The Tavern's lamb burger
Restaurant: Tarbell's The Tavern
Evie Carpenter Inside The Tavern
Location: 3213 E. Camelback Road
Open: Over two weeks
Eats: Upscale European/American
Price: $20 to $25+ per person
To call Mark Tarbell's The Tavern a wine bar is not only insufficient, it's just plain wrong.
True, the restaurant is attached to the chef's The Wine Store (formerly Sportsman's Fine Wines) and offers an extensive wine list. But it's clear as soon as you crack open the menu that The Tavern is as much a place for a casual but satisfying dinner as it is a place to sip on Chardonnay.
The Tavern's website explains the menu as a collection of dishes inspired by the chef's memories of European wine bars, but points out that it also serves a full menu of "foods that he like to eat."
There's a full page of sharable plates and starters that range from the Farmers Market Veggie Plate ($14) to Sterling royal caviar ($125). There's also a seafood bar (think oysters, crab, and lobster) in addition to six salads ranging in price from $9 to $13.
We chose to start with two of the menu's four bikinis, a unique dish that comes from Catalonia and Spain. The miniature sandwiches, similar to a French croque monsieur or American grilled cheese, come on wonderfully soft, barely sweet challah bread that gets delicately toasted just on the outside.
The truffle bikini ($4) features Spanish Manchego cheese dressed with a light drizzle of truffle and chive oils, resulting in an aromatic and indulgent dish. The jamón serrano and Manchego bikini ($4) was also a nice way to start the meal, with dry-cured Spanish ham and more Manchego.
Evie Carpenter Jamon Serrano and Manchego Bikini