I feel a certain connection with Tabla, the Indian restaurant, because it was the first restaurant I reviewed for this website after leaving the Orlando Sentinel in 2008. Back then, it called itself Tabla Bar & Grill and was located in a nondescript space in a motel or timeshare (I could never figure which one) near Universal Studios Orlando.
Fifteen years later, that first location still exists. But in the past few years owner Nora Jain and family have grown the business to four locations. The Winter Park Tabla opened in 2020 in the off-Park space that had been Paris Bistro. Then Lake Nona got a version in late 2021.
Now, Tabla has opened in Oviedo in Center Lake Park overlooking the quiet lake and fountain. To maintain bragging rights that I’ve visited all four Tablas, I headed to Oviedo recently. And I had to smile at how far Tabla has come.
The new location is beautiful. It occupies a space that had been De La Vega, a Latin American restaurant that closed last February. The highlight of the space is a covered veranda that overlooks the park, and on a recent balmy evening that was the place that everyone wanted to sit.
I began my dinner nibbling on pappadum with various chutneys (I liked the mango), and for my first course I had the mixed pakora, which featured spiced cauliflower, chunks of potatoes, firm cubes of paneer and onions coated in chickpea batter and deftly fried.
I also sampled the bhalla papdi chaat, a wonderful collection of good stuff all in one bowl, including crispy flour strips, plump chickpeas and potatoes.
For my entree I chose the vindaloo gosht, with hearty hunks of tender lamb cooked with potatoes and vinegar and myriad spices to create a thick and spicy gravy. It was wonderful spooned over the fluffy basmati rice. One thing I especially appreciate about Tabla: chef Sajan Prem protects the integrity of certain dishes like vindaloo and notes on the menu that they cannot be prepared mild. If you don’t like spicy food, you probably want to order something besides vindaloo.
And if you like sweet, you may want to try the Peshawari naan. It was filled with coconut, raisins and almonds. It tasted sort of like an Indian version of stollen, the German Christmas bread.
And for dessert, a sweet samosa filled with chocolate and served atop vanilla ice cream, all creatively drizzled with chocolate syrup.
My server was gracious and had excellent menu knowledge. I listened as he guided the diners at the next table toward dishes they were likely to enjoy.
The patio is nice but the interior space is also pleasant, with white stacked-brick walls, a central bar (something not usually found in Indian restaurants) and dangling light bulbs.
Tabla seems to get better with each new location. Can’t wait to see what number five looks like.