The best place to put a restaurant is where there are already successful restaurants. So when Avatar Walia, owner of the Flatiron Indian restaurant Tamarind, wanted to go way upscale, it’s no surprise he chose Tribeca.
Still, there’s a huge risk here. Tamarind Tribeca is a big-box 11,000-foot bi-level space. Take one look at the build-out (Eater.com has photos), and it’s immediately obvious it wasn’t done on the cheap. With fresh orchids on every table and a service brigade worthy of a three-star restaurant, the operating costs must be substantial.
There’s no reason why such a restaurant cannot work, but I do not recall a successful precedent for Indian food.
I can report, at least, that the food is wonderful, and it is not expensive, in light of the surroundings. Dinner for two was $135 before tip, including two appetizers, two entrées, sides of rice and naan, and a bottle of wine ($45). That’s more than you’d pay at the neighborhood tandoori mill, but Tamarind is much better than that.
I cannot compare this outpost to the Flatiron branch, but the server said the menu here is broader and more ambitious. The Village Voice, in a rave review, reported that the owner “does not employ one executive chef, instead using a team of chefs from various parts of India.”
The Voice thought that “the unusual strategy seems to be working,” and so do we.
Murg Malova ($10; above left). Hunks of chicken packing plenty of heat are seasoned with yogurt, coriander, cream cheese, and caraway seeds, then finished in the tandoor.
Bataki Kosha ($10.50; above right). Duck with mustard, onion, garlic, ginger, and garamasala is wrapped in a rice crepe with black salt and tangerine chutney, and deep fried. I’ve never had an Indian dish like this.
Both of these were large enough to be entrées—especially the duck.
Punjabi Mutton ($23; above left). Goat meat was served with whole spices, tomatoes, onions, ginger, and garlic. Aside from the use of goat—as opposed to the more common chicken or lamb—this dish resembled what you’d get in just about any Indian restaurant in the city. For all that, it was just right. The goat was served on the bone, but separated without difficulty.
Sufiani Machli ($26; above right). We were dumbfounded at the silky tenderness of sea bass, which had somehow survived roasting in the tandoor., then garnished with an intoxicating elixir of hung yogurt, dill, lime zest, and mixed peppercorns.
The server conceded that nobody in India is serving Tandoori Sea Bass. Still, this was the best fish entrée I’ve had all year—the kind of dish you can’t wait to have again.
The wine list is much longer and ambitious than it needs to be. This just might be the only Indian restaurant in town with wines that reach four figures, but there is plenty for those who want to stay under $50, as we did. The service was very close to flawless.
The space looked to be about half full by the time we left, at around 7:30 p.m. on a Friday evening, but Tribeca is a late-arriving crowd. Still, there are a lot of seats here, and they’ll need a lot of repeat business to keep them full.
If every meal at Tamarind Tribeca is as good as ours was, that won’t be a problem.
Tamarind Tribeca (99 Hudson Street at Franklin Street, TriBeCa)