Tamarind, the modestly upscale Indian restaurant on Craig Street, was known as Indica until a month ago, when the owners sold it and the head chef went to India. Curious to see if the menu had changed (it had), we checked it out on a Friday evening.
The restaurant is housed in a restored Victorian, an architectural sanctuary in the otherwise desolate neighborhood. The art is tasteful and the woodwork is dark, giving an overall elegant atmosphere. The classiness is only slightly diminished by the lighted yellow awning across the front window, casting a fast-foodish glow across the front tables. The clientele is primarily professionals and graduate students in their 20s and 30s. Though every table was full when we arrived at 7, it had emptied significantly by 8:30.
When asked which vegetarian dishes best represent Tamarind, our waiter Rod exuberantly recommended the gobi manchurian (deep fried cauliflower in a red sauce, starter for $6) and the yogurt rice starter ($3). We opted for the cauliflower, along with a side of uttappam ($6.50, a lentil pancake with coconut curry and sambar, a lentil soup), and the channa masala entree ($10).
Now, gobi manchurian (pictured) may be the best Indian dish I’ve ever eaten. The cauliflower was perfectly fried, chewy inside and crisp outside, with a mildly sweet, roasted red chili sauce that grew in intensity bite after bite. Tamarind’s philosophy is to allow its customers to distinguish spicy from hot, and this dish exemplifies how flavorful a spicy dish can be without overwhelming heat. We can’t wait to try making manchurian sauce ourselves.
The channa masala (pictured) was a step above the typical chickpea dish found at most Indian restaurants. This one had a more complex spice profile, with layers of articulated flavors, including curry leaves, tomato, onion, cardamom, and a lingering aftertaste of lime. The dish was both smokey and creamy. The vegetable of the day, included with the dish, was green beans in a ginger and coconut sauce, which, while tasty, paled in comparison to the channa masala.
The uttapam was a bit disappointing. It tasted no better than the lentil crepes we’ve attempted to make ourselves. It had great chunks of carrot and peas, but was generally tasteless unless soaked in the sambar.
The service was excellent, and the price was reasonable ($24.05 + tip). Josh has declared Tamarind to be his new lunchtime Indian buffet joint ($7 on weekdays).
Update: We returned for the buffet lunch on a quiet Tuesday and were rather disappointed, particularly with the lifeless, flat, cold naan. Also disappointing were the mushroom mattar (chewy and bland) and the eggplant curry (peppery and bland). We considered downgrading the restaurant to 3.5 veggies but there was a tasty saffron biryani and the channa masala. Memories of the gobi manuchurian and the low price again suggested that Tamarind is still pretty good for the price.
- Gobi manchurian
- Channa masala
- Mushroom mattar
- Eggplant curry