EATinton logo: Fred Kalil
Frederick Kalil reviews

Tatte’s formula for success isn’t difficult to unlock. Take the sinful attraction of pastry, add the counterweight of bowl food with Middle Eastern flavors and streamline service within a sleek black-and-white tiled workspace. This concatenation apparently meets the right blend of requirements for today’s consumers: At last count there were 25 locations in Massachusetts and 12 in the D.C. area.

Given the numbers, chances are by now you’ve found yourself in one Tatte or another and been exposed to displays of their signature nut boxes: pastry containers piled with candied-nut cargo, currently absent from the Arlington lineup. Once you’ve made it past the uniformly manicured sweets, you’ll order and pay at the counter before food is delivered to your café table. Though only a few entrée plates are listed on the all-day menu, there are enough breakfast, sandwich, salad, vegetarian, and gluten-free options to fulfill most preferences. Calorie liability figures are thoughtfully listed for your consideration.

Submit to the shakshuka

A glance around to see what’s in front of patrons confirmed the popularity of a chain specialty, shakshuka — eggs poached in red bell pepper and tomatoes with cumin and feta. Our attention diverted instead to a variant alternative with creamy potato sauce, shiitakes, spinach and strips of bacon. Comfort food expectations were met, and the wilted spinach leaves made a welcome complement to the richness of the dish. The eggs within were cooked past the runny yolk stage, I noted. While wondering to myself what kids eat here, I happened to look up and saw this being assertively dug into by a youngster.

Among the many breakfast offerings, we sampled the attractively presented croque madame. Smoky ham was mounded into a split croissant, egg with yolk oozing (requested “over medium”), and top pastry coated with mornay sauce. It’s a classic for good reason. At 270 calories lighter and well worthwhile is the seared halloumi breakfast sandwich on a challah roll with sautéed spinach and griddled tomato. Bookmarked for a future visit: “soft scrambled eggs.”

I had heard a happy report about the soups, and one being offered was chicken, white bean and squash. Less hearty than it sounded, its brothy base provided an appealing blast of allspice flavor up front. Although what looked like a respectable baguette is visible for sale among the baked goods, the soup was served with an unremarkable roll. Tight-knit sourdough that came with our white shakshuka similarly met with purse-lipped disappointment.

The ascension of lamb

Lamb appears to be enjoying a welcome currency on menus. Has it at last ascended to its pride of place as the other red meat? The lamb kebab plate drew our attention as an obvious choice, it also being one of the closest options to approximate an entrée. Rather than chunks of meat, kebabs here are kufta-like meatballs packed with plenty of spice -- no disappointments, aside from arriving at room temperature.

The orbs were approvingly deemed “not too fatty” and all agreed their robust taste belied a homely appearance. The plate serves up well-matched accompaniments including crunchy pickled vegetables, labneh and pita with two spreads. Chickpea purée offered a welcome change from hummus and even if one wished for a more generous dusting of za’atar, our bread was satisfyingly chewy. The baba ghanoush, perceived by some as being salty, benefited from not being overblended.

Tartine à la Tatte

From the category of tartine (in plain English the open-faced format responsible for avocado toast), one topping that caught everyone’s eye featured prosciutto, delicata squash, roasted red onion and pomegranate seeds. Its combination of textures made for an admirable mouthfeel, however, the scarcity of prosciutto on ours meant sweeter flavors predominated. Parmesan is shown among the listed ingredients; we were mystified at its apparent absence. The dispiriting sourdough bread again made an appearance.

Yet these people know how to bake, as witnessed by a very fine lemon mint meringue tartlet. And I must put in a word for the preserved fig, lemon and mint soda. The word is ambrosial.

Tatte Bakery & Café

645 Mass. Ave.

Monday through Saturday 7.am. to 8 p.m.

Sunday 8 a.m.to 7 p.m.

781-583-6046


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This restaurant review of Tatte by YourArlington freelancer Frederick Kalil was published Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.

A resident of Arlington, Kalil has been eating food since birth. Starting from a home in which family cuisine ranged from kibbeh to cretons, he has sought high standards and a world of flavor at his own table and when dining out. After years of writing about dining options for the neighboring Tufts community, he now explores local kitchens for his fellow Arlingtonians.