I can’t lie, when I was home last summer and saw the sign for a yet to open restaurant that read Tavola: Post-Modern Mediterranean Dining, I couldn’t help but sigh.
What the hell is post-modern Mediterranean food?
As a history graduate, I am familiar with the term post-modernism and its uses in literature and historiography, but with food? I was stumped.
So I googled it. There was talk of hipster cuisine and moustaches, Instagram, and lots of discussion of organic food, but I really couldn’t get a solid definition for this type of cuisine. I don’t why, but it bothered me.
However, when my sister Maggie visited this restaurant she raved about the pasta, and being a lover of all things Italian, I just had to try this restaurant when I was in St. John’s a few weeks ago, despite the assumingly pretentious signage.
Maggie and I arrived that cold evening to a half-empty restaurant, which I was surprised to see on a Friday night. We were greeted by two lovely ladies who were serving the small restaurant and were attended to well throughout the whole evening.
We started off with cocktails.
Maggie’s Mediterranean Fizz was a giant gin-based cocktail and was reminiscent of a mojito. My Pink Lemonade Spritz was equally large and fruity with vodka and notes of lime. Though both cocktails were a little out of season, their summery flavours (and size) were refreshing on a cold February Friday.
For the first course, I chose the Beet Carpaccio. The beet was superbly sliced and very flavourful. The little salad atop the carpaccio was also delicious with the arugula and walnuts pairing well with the whipped goat cheese. In my opinion they totally skimped on the goat cheese: there can never be enough goat cheese. Look at that sad little dollop.
Maggie went with the Arancini. The two crispy spheres were nestled in a delicious marinara sauce, and the prosciutto inside them made it extra delicious. She loved it.
We ordered a bottle of red wine to share with our mains, a Spanish favourite of Maggie’s, the Campo Viejo Reserva 2008, and by the time we had finished off those giant cocktails the main event had arrived.
Maggie chose the Ricotta Ravioli. The creamy stuffed ravioli was beautifully presented on the plate with mushrooms, cauliflower sauce, parmesan, and just a touch of truffle oil. It was so lovely to look at, and even more delicious to taste.
For my main, I also went with pasta and chose the Duck Confit Fettuccine with brown butter sauce, pecorino romano, and sage. The pasta was fresh and clearly made on the premises, and the flavours were amazing. The duck was luscious, but the dish was a tad dry overall.
Overall we had a lovely evening. The service was prompt, the conversation epic, and though Maggie and I would have had a blast at McDonald’s, the food really amped up a much needed and appreciated sister night out.
Despite the questionable front signage, Tavola was a lovely experience. The restaurant is small and intimate and the flavours and presentation of the food were of high quality. I still don’t know what post-modern Mediterranean dining is, but I don’t care, the food was good. Tavola is a delicious restaurant in downtown St. John’s that no one seems to know about, but they should.
Things Worth Mentioning…
Cost: We split the bill in half, and for 2 cocktails, a bottle of decent wine, 2 mains and 2 apps, it was around $75 each. Not the cheapest meal you can find in St. John’s but the fresh pasta alone is worth it.
Things I liked: The intimate atmosphere, the giant cocktails, and the lovely conversation with my sister.
Things I didn’t: The bright light from the kitchen that shone a little too brightly into the dining room.
Best Place to Sit: In the windows for a great view of Water Street.
What To Order Next Time: Whatever seasonal pasta creation is on the menu the next time I am in town.