Haute Eating: 10 Questions for Chef Floyd Cardoz

When it comes to refined American cuisine fused with exotic Indian flavors, Tabla is the definitive place to go. And no wonder: award-winning chef Floyd Cardoz has been at Tabla’s helm since its inception in 1998, creating dishes inspired by where he grew up, Bombay and Goa, and enhanced by his culinary training in both India and Europe. Recently Tabla devised a new angle: the dual fine dining upstairs/casual downstairs “experiences” were melded into one (which you can read more about below).

At this Madison Avenue mainstay, you’ll find elegant dishes such as tandoori sweetbreads, chicken liver masala, Goan fish curry, spice-crusted sirloin for two, and vanilla bean kulfi—bewitching dishes for food lovers who enjoy the bold and aromatic flavors of India coupled with masterful cooking.

With hints of spring in the air, you’ll soon be able to have lunch or dinner outside on the patio. But no matter where you sit—upstairs, downstairs, or outside—one thing is certain: you’ll enjoy chef Floyd Cardoz’s unique take on Indian cuisine.

Haute Living: What’s new at Tabla?

Chef Floyd Cardoz: We have switched from two separate dining rooms and experiences to one. Whereas before the restaurant was divided into a more formal experience with a la carte and a fixed price options, now we have one menu with both small and large plates. Guests can decide how many courses to order and whether to share many plates or [individually] order several courses for themselves. It has made the restaurant more approachable, more casual, and also more affordable.

HL: What are some of your favorite dishes at Tabla?

FC: It is hard to choose, but I am always partial to our skate, the sweet spice braised oxtails, the tandoori octopus, the steak for two, and in summer, anything with watermelon.

HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?

FC: I enjoy Asian flavors so I often eat Japanese, Chinese, or Korean. Tsukushi (a small restaurant by the UN) is one of my favorites. I also like tapas-style dining, so Boqueria and Casa Mono are other restaurants I visit frequently.

HL: What’s your ideal meal?

FC: Dining with six to eight people who love food and a meal that includes some offal, shellfish, and either beef or goat with plenty of vegetables. The meal would also include a nice bottle of wine and would end with a shot of 15-year old Balvenie single barrel scotch.

HL: Your favorite special-occasion spot?

FC: Daniel—they know how to make an evening special.

HL: What’s your favorite NYC neighborhood?

FC: Madison Square Park

HL: What do you like to do in the city on your days off?

FC: Walk the streets looking for ethnic markets and just discovering ingredients.

HL: Your favorite vacation destination?

FC: I have two destinations. The first is the Outer Banks of North Carolina; I love the peace, quiet, and the ocean. The second is Hawaii. They both put me in a relaxed frame of mind.

HL: What’s your most memorable meal?

FC: There are two that I remember most vividly. On my 10th wedding anniversary my wife and I went to Paris and dined at Pierre Gagnaire. Every aspect of the meal was perfection. In December of 2009, we visited Kerala, India with our sons and spent a couple of nights on a houseboat. We had an eight-course meal of local ingredients while watching the sunset. Every dish blew me away.

HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?

FC: Ginger, Pasilla de Oaxaca chilies, ramps, bacon, and anchovies.

Tabla is located at 11 Madison Ave. at 25th Street; 212.889.0667

Tracey Ceurvels can be reached at tracey@thebusyhedonist.com or by visiting her blog, The Busy Hedonist.