Tablespoons of flavour at Varun Tuli’s latest — tbsp.Tablespoon

Serial restaurateur Varun Tuli has pulled off another coup with tbsp.Tablespoon. The food, inspired by American kitchens and steeped in childhood nostalgia, spells Comfort with a capital C.
Tbsp or tablespoon has cheery interiors.
tbsp or Tablespoon has cheery interiors.

It’s a restaurant you cannot miss, the pops of colour making it stand out at Commons, the upmarket ‘food court’ at DLF Avenue. It’s also visibly fuller than its neighbours, who are all excellent establishments in their own right. Of course, part of this is the buzz of new places. Delhi swoons over them, before moving on to the next kill. But if the food and concept at tbsp are anything to go by, Delhi’s foodies will be back for more. 

Tbsp serves its own canned drinks.
tbsp serves its own canned drinks.

It is the latest venture from Varun Tuli, who made his name with Yum Yum Tree, which opened in 2008 and had a successful eight-year run. Yum Yum Tree was probably Delhi’s first conveyor sushi joint and, of course, its dim sums were legendary. Varun has delivered several other winners since. These include the Yum Yum Cha Pan Asian Bistro chain, catering ventures and, more recently, a bunch of cloud kitchen concepts like Pot Pot, Noshi and the excellent Wheaty Bakery (try their sourdough breads). 

Tbsp or Tablespoon (acronyms rule here, but more on that later) is inspired by Varun’s childhood, part of which he spent in the US. American life, viewed through the prism of nostalgia, centres around the kitchen and hearth; hearty, wholesome flavours; and simple cooking. Of course, there are sodas and ice creams too. The biggest surprise: the sodas are all in house and they have their own canning machine.

Tbsp serves authentic neapolitan pizzas.
tbsp serves authentic Neapolitan pizzas.

At tbsp, everything has been custom made for the restaurant, from the quirky tableware to the condiment bottles (and the condiments they contain). The food too is made as much from scratch as possible, as we discovered over the course of our meal. 

It’s a decently sized menu, the bulk of it a mix of (not-very) small plates and generously-sized pizzas, mains and pasta dishes. Like the restaurant itself, the dishes have condensed names, some of them decidedly tongue in cheek: the Corn Ribs are called CRNY, the bitter-chocolate crème brulee is BTCH.

Portions at tbsp are generous.
Portions at tbsp are generous.

We started off with some cold plates. The AVO (sliced avocado, guacamole, basil pesto and olive sourdough bread) had generous amounts of avocado and the bread was chewy and flavourful. For the non-vegetarians, the SLMN (smoked salmon lox, salmon tartare, lemon sour cream and classic sourdough bread), which we also tried, is an excellent option. And lest you think this is some store-bought smoked salmon slapped onto some bread, think again. They smoke their own salmon at tbsp. The breads are all from sister concern Wheaty. 

Even the small plates at tbsp can be pretty filling.
Even the small plates at tbsp can be pretty filling.

Things got more exciting as we moved on to the hot plates, my pescatarian partner-in-crime shivering with delight at the spicy crab cakes and the prawns in AOP sauce. The goat cheese balls come highly recommended for vegetarians. There’s also bacon (“thick-cut, Punjabi style,” as Tuli says) in a honey mustard sauce. And you guessed it: it’s made in house. You can buy it raw as well, as you can a variety of other food products, including the house-made pastas (the charcoal radiatori being a highlight). This makes tbsp an interesting mix of casual bistro, deli and ice cream parlour/dessert shop.

We stayed with fish for the main course, ordering the generously sized barbecue salmon. Indeed, portions are ample and the introductory prices low by design (so, go soon). The pork ribs also looked inviting. There is a variety of sides on offer, from grilled broccoli to cheesy potato gratin, depending on which side of the health spectrum you swing towards. 

The staff at tbsp is colour coordinated with the restaurant as well.
The staff at tbsp is colour coordinated with the restaurant as well.

A delectable array of Neapolitan pizzas marches out of tbsp’s wood-fired oven, and the dough is prepared with a special process that takes a couple of days. You can also mix and match flavours by ordering half and half pizzas. There’s everything from marinara to prosciutto. Ours was rather under-salted but since we visited barely a few days into the opening, I think this can be excused. The menu in any case is a work in progress and items will be dropped or tweaked based on guest feedback. 

Tbsp does some comforting pastas.
tbsp does some comforting pastas.

For pasta, we tried the charcoal radiatori tossed in a creamy garlic alfredo sauce and strips of bacon. Heavenly. 

To wash it all down, we ordered a few of the soda pop cans. The VMTO (Vimto) was lovely but PNK (Pink Lemonade) didn’t quite hit the spot. They have some flavoured sparling waters too, with no sugar added, so that’s a healthier choice to stick to. I also tried the Vietnamese cold coffee which was superb. 

There always comes a point in a review meal when you realise you cannot possibly eat another single bite. And then, miraculously, you find room for dessert. At tbsp, you must. Here be the dome cakes of Varun’s American childhood, crème brulees, pie and tarts, trifles, ice cream sandwiches, ice creams by the scoop… The trifles are served in Pyrex measuring jars. Indeed a lot of the food here is served informally, as it would in a home kitchen. There is even a house-made snickers candy bar. Okay so, Varun Tuli is basically Willy Wonka. 

Dessert portions at tbsp are definitely american sized.
Dessert portions at tbsp are definitely American sized.

With tbsp, restaurateur Varun Tuli proves yet again that he has a limitless imagination and a finely tuned instinct for delivering hit formulas. And you can never go wrong with comfort food, especially after a pandemic.

Address: tbsp, 167-168, DLF Avenue, Saket District Centre, District Centre, Sector 6, Saket, New Delhi, Delhi 110017, +91-9821002551

Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars) 
Food: 8/10
Drinks: 7/10
Service: 8/10
Interiors: 8/10
Vibe: 7/10
One dish we loved: Avocado cold plate
One dish that didn’t work for us: Truffle Pizza — wasn’t salted at all, but easily rectified

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