My husband and I love going to the restaurants in Tribeca. The neighborhood has a really cool vibe: part bohemian and laid back, somewhat mysterious, chic and addictive. Many times, we walked or drove past a place called Tamarind. It always intrigued us by its modern, sleek look and always bustling interior, but we were unfamiliar of Indian food so we never went in. We made a mental note to came back and try it “someday,”but that day didn’t arrive for few years …. until after we went to India!
Late in January of this year my husband had to go to India on business and, of course, I tagged along (how could I miss such opportunity)! We didn’t really know what to expect, some of our friends who’ve been, loved it while others had opposing views. We however like to experience things and places for ourselves. If I had ten dollars for every time that someone told me “don’t go there”, I’d be a gazillionaire by now. We went and spent ten days there and let me tell you, we loved it! We met really good people, went to very cool, progressive local restaurants and experienced it all to the max! We went to local markets (not for the faint of heart) in the old Delhi, to markets in Mumbai (less issues for the faint of heart), local restaurants and shops. Everywhere, we were welcomed.
However, since this post is about Tamarind and not our India trip I won’t go into the minutia; perhaps a separate post for that. It is safe to say that the trip really moved that mental note to visit Tamarind to the front burner. I was introduced to the owner, Avtar Walia, by a very good friend who like us shares a passion for food and in fact, is traveling to India for the first time this summer.Mr. Walia, as everyone calls him, explained his vision of a fine dining Indian cuisine restaurant. He is no novice to the restaurant business in New York, and Tamarind in the Flatiron district was his first solo venture followed by the Tamarind Tea Room and Tamarind Tribeca. Let me tell you, the Tribeca location lived up to all of my expectations. I read up on it before going and I thought that 11,000 square foot restaurant would really be a bit overwhelming and not necessarily intimate. However, Mr. Walia did a phenomenal job at separating the space in several distinct areas which made so much sense and resulted in creating a cozy dining environment and exciting bar space. At Tamarind Tribeca, a unique culinary journey will take you across India with its powerful spices, rich sauces, tender tandoor prepared meats and fish from Calcutta to Punjab Provinces. Lasuni Gobi, which literally means cauliflower with garlic, is restaurant’s lunch best seller – people call in advance to secure their takeout order, as told by Mr. Walia himself. I am a big fan of all-things cauliflower and this dish is simply superb. Crispy, deep-fried cauliflower florets are tossed in a tangy tomato & garlic sauce, served hot with chives and curly parsley sprinkled on top. Bhagari Jhinga was another mouth-watering delight. Succulent jumbo prawns are tampered with black mustard seeds and curry leaf, finished in a creamy tomato sauce. Lobster Masala is the answer why I liked Tamarind’s food so much. Delicate, sweet lobster meat cooked with shiitake mushrooms in white wine and cashew-tomato sauce is a pure indulgence. Served in a lobster shell, it is a dish to remember! Masala Gosht is another traditional Indian dish in which lamb is cooked in a creamy onion sauce with whole crushed spices, red wine, shiitake mushroom. The amount of spices used in masala gosht is astonishing- cloves, cinnamon sticks, black pepper, cardamon, and bay leaves to name a few, all contributingto rich flavor and fragrant aromas of the meat! This food calls for Kingfisher beer, a tasty lager to calm the spiciness of the food. Land and Sea features venison chops, grilled lobster, Chilean sea bass, tandoori asparagus served with sweet-cilantro chutney. Simple yet deepened in flavor. I was offered a mango cheese cake for dessert but instead I asked for something very traditional. Ras Malai resembled cottage cheese, flavored with subtle taste of rose water and cardamon, sprinkled with pistachios, the cream was served in a chocolate sphere. Served cold! Gulab Jamun is an Indian version of a deep-fried donut served in a sweet syrup sensed with rose water. Photographed by Gary Flom.