First Look: TALK in Rittenhouse

TALK Rittenhouse

Late in June, TALK opened its doors on the 2100 block of Walnut Street, bringing another slick, grown-up dining option to this burgeoning part of the neighborhood. Before the restaurant served its first dish, there was already plenty of buzz surrounding it, as the restaurant is the second effort from restaurateur Andrew Kochan and Chef Tim Lanza of Marigold Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant with a distinctive modernist flair.

TALK is undoubtedly Marigold’s edgy, New American counterpart, with its Art Deco styling and its choose-your-own-adventure menu, featuring small and large plates. Like stepping into a film noir movie, with the all-black everything theme, gold accents, flickering candles and clinking cocktail glasses, the hyper-stylized interior does not hold back on its 1940s-era theme.

TALK Rittenhouse

On a recent dinner date there, we were ushered by a demure host to a two-top outfitted with plush leather chairs. The cinched-up cocktail menu offered plenty of seasonally inspired options, like the Desert Rose (Bluecoat barrel-aged gin, Lo-fi gentian amaro, strawberry shrub and rose-peppercorn syrup) and the Deadly Nightshade (bourbon, house limoncello, Dolin Genepy des Alpes and chamomile). Little blossoms garnishing the drinks were a charming a touch.

There is also a robust wine and beer program, and the servers and bartenders are ready with helpful, friendly suggestions, if needed.

At the time, TALK was still serving a rather limited food menu, but there was still a nice range of options. The dishes that worked best, we thought, were the ones that committed to the simplicity of the summer ingredients and let their essences shine through. While the fluke crudo was a bit muddled and bland, draped across chunks of watermelon and floating in a puddle of cucumber water, the raw oysters, garnished with tiny pickled melon balls (and served with the cutest little bottle of hot sauce) were able to shine in all of their bivalve glory.

TALK RittenhouseSimilarly, the crudités platter, with a mix of roasted and fresh veggies and dollops of avocado mousse, seemed simple on the front of it, but each little component cooperated, each tender jewel-box vegetable its best version of itself.TALK Rittenhouse

And though many of the plating presentations at TALK tend toward the precious and precise, we liked the abundant, rustic dishes best. The sourdough panzanella salad with burrata, strawberries and tomatoes sang with flavors: tangy, sweet, creamy and fresh, in lovely harmony.

TALK Rittenhouse

At the time of our visit, there were only three large plates on the menu (currently, there are five, including a chicken breast with chanterelles that sounds divine). The standout dish was the scallops, perfectly cooked with succotash, country ham, cornbread and huitlacoche.

TALK Rittenhouse

Desserts range from the clever (house-made ice pops) to the nostalgic (pecan pie), and dessert wines and spirits make a nice nightcap. Though, to be honest, we’d be happy to choose something else off the cocktail menu for dessert — perhaps the Crown of Thorns, featuring Kinsey 4 year rye, Luxardo maraschino, Chinese 5-spice, clarified apple and ginger.

TALK Rittenhouse

With a new happy hour, late-night bar hours and plenty of ways to work your way through the menu, this is the kind of restaurant that can be what you want it to be: a quick after-work drink, a hot date or dinner with the girls. While the atmosphere is sleek and a bit serious, with a hint of fine-dining airs, TALK manages to be comfortable and welcoming, too — a nice, cool, dark joint to hide out from the frenetic pace of Center City.

Kitchen hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 4–11 p.m., and the bar is open ’til 1 a.m. Happy hour runs from 4–6 p.m. on the same days.

Find TALK at 2121 Walnut St. in Philadelphia; phone: (215) 515-3608.

  • Photos: Ed Williams