My wife and I were big fans of Mandalay Cafe on 45th, and were sad to see them go out of business. The good news is that the old Mandalay space is now occupied by Tilth, an all-organic restaurant led by a crew of Earth & Ocean veterans.
We dropped by last Saturday around 8pm with no reservation. The old dark interior had been brightened by a new paint job and much-improved lighting, giving the space a bright, fresh feel. While most tables were occupied, we were quickly offered an open two-top near the bar and settled in to scan the menu.
Tilth's concept is innovative (even surprising) preparations of all-organic (mostly local) ingredients, served in a small-plates format. We struggled a little with the clear desire to be "different" (no comfort food here), but settled on five offerings that spanned their range: a soup, a salad, a fish, short ribs, and a savory custard (billed as a mushroom creme brulee, complete with carmelized sugar crust). Of this range, the soup and fish were excellent, the salad very good, the custard well-executed and fun but probably not a repeat, and the ribs only OK. We paired all this with a nice sauvignon blanc by the glass, passed on the dessert offering (a little too esoteric to catch our eye after a solid meal), and would up with a tab in the $100 range, tax and tip included.
Overall, our experience at Tilth was a good first start for a restaurant that's still shaking down its operations. Ambiance, service, food and wine were all well above average, with a few standout moments and an interesting, differentiated approach on both ingredients and preparation. We'll certainly go back, and hope the neighborhood embraces what's certainly the most high-concept restaurant 45th has seen in a long while.