Oakland Restaurant Challenge: Tamarind

Achievement: #4. Eat at 15 Oakland Restaurants

There’s a wise old saying out there that goes, “When life gives you terrible traffic conditions, go out and get Indian food.” Wait. That’s not it? It’s actually something about lemonade? Whatever, I know there’s no lemonade in Indian food.

So tonight, since we donate to the fantastic and fabulous Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, we got invited to a pre-show dinner before tonight’s performance of West Side Story. This was pretty exciting, because we love free stuff, and we love new restaurants (which this would have been), and we were going to get to see a cool musical in the Cultural District.

However, I must now admit in public that the rumors you have heard are true: I am, in fact, the daughter of the Traffic God. Yes, it’s true, my father is the Traffic God himself. He has spent literally months of his life sitting on the Parkway East, waiting. He has been stuck in three-hour traffic meltdowns in Dillon, North Carolina, and has even once sat in a dead-stop on an almost-unreachable one-way street in Boston at rush hour.

And so, as his daughter, it is only fair that the fates should make me subject to such traffic horrors. Last week, for example, I was driving my mum home around 4pm on a Friday, and a drive that is normally 25 minutes long took us 2 hours because of nonsensical traffic. When we lived in LA, I spent so much time sitting on the 405 that I mightaswell have set up a lawn chair and gotten some sun in the process.

And today, when I was trying to race home from my late-afternoon workout at the gym, I hit congested spot after congested spot. Each time I took a detour, there was a brief moment of relief, and then a sudden stop several cars ahead. The drive, which normally tops out at a half-hour on a day when I hit all red lights, took me about 70 minutes.

That said, we missed dinner. And we needed to pick up our play tickets at dinner, so we missed those too.

So at first we thought to check out the Paisano’s Menu but then rethought it and we did the next most reasonable thing, which was to drive back through the city and into Oakland to cross a restaurant off the list.

As it was early on a Thursday night, we decided it was worth a shot to try to get into the super-popular Tamarind Indian restaurant on Craig Street.

We’d tried to come several times before, but it gets quite crowded on the weekends, so we’ve never been able to snag a table. But tonight, just after rush hour, there was no wait for a table, and we were able to sit down in our fancy clothes with a bottle of wine and enjoy our dinner.

Tamarind is BYOB, with a corking fee of $5.00. After a little pre-dinner research, we decided to go with shiraz for our meal, and we picked up a bottle of Fat Bastard from the liquor store down the street.

The restaurant is set in an old house, with hardwood floors and a staircase in the entryway. I loved the decor, like you were walking into a friend’s home for dinner.

The big menu specialty at Tamarind is their dosas, which neither of us had ever had before. A dosa is kind of like an Indian crepe, almost like the bread we had at Abay, but less spongy and more crispy.

We also got an order of the samosas, because I like to compare those across every Indian restaurant I visit. These stood up to the test: the shell was crunchy and light, and the filling was perfectly spiced. That giant triangle is the dosa. We got the cilantro dosa, and it was just amazing. Again, I was amazed at the way the chefs were able to keep these dishes light and airy. Even the sambar and chutney were light. (A bonus: on Tuesday nights, their dosas are buy one get one half off!)

Michael got the seekh kabab for his entree, which is a lamb dish. Again, we all know I’m a little weird about lamb, but it sure looked good. The plate came out sizzling, and the meat was tender and not overly salty. (This review comes from the husband himself, as I don’t touch lamb 🙂

I figured that since I went out of my comfort zone to try the dosa, I could stick with my old standard mattar paneer for my entree. I’m not entirely sure what the vegetable blend to the left of the rice is, but it was yummy, and had a consistency and flavor almost like halushki. This was some of the creamiest, yummmiest mattar paneer I’ve ever had. The cheese chunks had an almost melt-in-your-mouth texture and density.

The only bad thing about this dish was that it was so good that even though I knew I had eaten way too much, I wanted to keep eating. I definitely stuffed myself too full tonight (although I let it slide, since I’d put in such a good workout beforehand).

We got an order of the garlic naan to go with our meals. I want you to take special note of the extra-fluffytastic-ness of this naan. There was full garlic flavor with each bite, which we loved.

We were way too full to even try to attempt any of the desserts, but as we were leaving, we caught sight of a sign on the door reminding that all GroupOns must be used with a reservation… at which point we realized we had a GroupOn for Tamarind. Next time, we’ll have to save room.

I also want to take a moment to comment on the excellent service. Our waiter answered every question we had, and even gave us more insight on what made the flavors what they were, explaining about how different spices worked together in the dishes. And, the staff was quite accommodating with water refills (which is good, since the mattar paneer was a bit salty), and the food delivery was prompt.

Tamarind may be edging up to the top of our Favorite Indian Restaurants in Pittsburgh list, and I think a repeat visit to use our GroupOn may seal the deal. I’m excited to try the other flavors of dosas, and I have my eye on the aloo gobi masala next time around. If you’re in the mood for a different type of setting for your Indian cuisine, Tamarind is the place. Just remember that they’re closed Mondays, and if you want to go on the weekend, a reservation is a must.

We’re almost halfway through our Oakland restaurant Achievement after tonight! Woohoo!


Filed under #4, #4-11, dinner, indian food, oakland, restaurant

3 Responses to Oakland Restaurant Challenge: Tamarind

  1. Thank you Guys for trying our restaurant and giving a positive view of the place. Hope to see you again.

  2. Wooow!! Thank you so much Mr.Mike&jenn for your honorable And kind comments About our food&service!!! and we all looking forward to see you both more often at our place in the future! 🙂
    Thank you so much again.

  3. Wooow!! Thank you so much Mr.Mike&jenn for your honorable And kind comments About our food&service!!! and we all looking forward to see you both more often at our place in the future! 🙂
    Thank you so much again.

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