Tuesday, January 6, 2015


The old Tamarind on 22nd street (now tragically demolished) was not only a mecca of outstanding, elegant Indian, but the site of very fond memories.  I was disappointed at its demise, but thankfully there remained the big-box version down in Tribeca, so when the opportunity presented itself, I was excited to try out the newer digs.  We were seated in the upper mezzanine, a strange
 architectural configuration blocking the view of the lower area where a lively open kitchen provides an entertaining vista, but the room's luminous, glowy quality provided a sophisticated warmth and welcome, even if our servers immediately did not.

After a bit, though, we were offered cocktail menus, but not as much, it seemed, for our enjoyment as for them really wanting to upsell the alcohol.  As if the restaurant's food prices were not elevated enough to ensure profit- which isn't the best feeling to have when you sit down for dinner.  Eventually, however, we procured dinner menus as well (tided over by well-executed cocktails in the end, after all), which are broad and lengthy enough to require uninebriated focus, so it was fortuitous to have deferred our cocktail consumption moderately.  We waited so long for the  seemingly endless menus: enormous, huge unwieldly placards with a dizzying number of options, that if you aren't a little picky or have some
 food aversions or allergies, just ordering is an ordeal.  In addition, our server rattled off a marathon of specials, which were simply superfluous and virtually impossible to remember.   The plethora of sections could steer a diner in any number of directions (small plates, traditional app/entree style, family-style, etc.) , but with the notorious density of Indian cuisine, I bogarted ordering to some degree, in order to maintain a balanced variety that allowed for as much diversity as possible.  Still, some of the signature noshes demanded sampling, such as our first plate, a sampler of samosas.  Crisp triangles filled with steaming-hot peas and dense potato, and another of rich confit lamb, were pleasantly greasy and crunchy: exotic, cultured junk food.  The two dipping sauces liven up the hefty pockets, like salsa for chips.

My favorite thing we ordered was Raji's vegetarian thali, always fun to eat, with the assortment of dals and chutneys.  Two billowy poori stole the show, the steaming, tender pillows salty and chewy, perfect for daubs of the saucy stews in the crocks surrounding them.  Mysteriously absent was any vegetable kebab as stated on the menu, but the pleasantly toothsome okra in one of the crocks, kicky with heat, made up for some of that.  A cooling, cucumber flecked yogurt paired well with another dish, the fiery Murg Kohlapuri with its tantalizing spices and whole peppercorns.  The chicken itself was probably a touch overcooked, typical of Curry Hill-type Indian joints, but much more noticeable at these price points, easily three to four times what could be paid to procure cuisine of commensurate quality in less elegant surroundings.  A
  skewer of marinated shrimp similarly spent a little too much time in the tandoor, toughening up
what probably wasn't the most premium quality shrimp to begin with gauging from their slightly metallic flavor.  But the hung yogurt (pretty much the reason we ordered it... was it strained or from some novel beast called a hung??) was thick and flavorful with herbs, although we forgot, in the end, to ask what the unfamiliar nomenclature was all about.  Achari Khumb certainly didn't capitalize on the shittakeness of its mushrooms, instead steaming them into submission to what could have been any-generic cultivated mushroom.
But the flavor of the rich, tomatoey sauce was bold and hearty, piqued with pickly tidbits and slippery chunks of onion.  It's good to have a balance of less seasoned dishes and saucier ones, so at least our spread was really well balanced.

We had tons of food left over (they recommended an additional order of rice, but that which some of the dishes came with was more than sufficient, leaving that bowl to go directly from table to take-out container).  Speaking of which, we requested the dishes consolidated so as not to accumulate a thousand little plastic boxes, but that was completely disregarded.  I ended up with a grocery bag of tupperware, all with little two-bites daubs within).  But still, we were there, the night was young, and despite being somewhat underwhelmed by the food and overwhelmed with the price tags, we decided on a dessert to share, more to continue enjoying the
company at hand than the offerings themselves, all of which were starchy, sugary concoctions striving for modernity but attaining mediocrity.    At least our white chocolate mousse cake, that tasted more like lightly sweetened, aerated wax than confection.  Unfortunate, too, since it was kind of a lovely little architectural construction.   They could well do with some lighter, fruitier options... something with mango or some other exotic Indian fruit.   It did, however, illustrate precisely what has become of Tamarind itself.  Perhaps it is the influence of the neighborhood, Nobu next door and just a general resting-on-its-laurels syndrome.  But unlike its now-defunct Flatiron predecessor, Tamarind Tribeca is a lot more pomp and appearances than spice and sincerity.  The menu boasts their Malai Halibut as the Grand Prize winner of the USA Fish Dish Awards... from 2004.  Rather than expanding their already dizzyingly expansive menu with hard-to-remember daily specials rattled out from the waiters, they should hone and refine the stuff that's already on the menu.  They're long due for an update.

tamarind tribeca logo

99 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10013
Tel 212- 775 -9000

the abundance of carbs might be deceiving especially when they are so elegantly displayed.

No comments:

Post a Comment