Raise your hand if you like Indian food? (raises both hands) I don’t just like Indian food I LOVE Indian food. I certainly wasn’t exposed to many Indian dishes growing up in Southern California. I think my mom had one dish in her rotation, Hurry Curry. It was a very Americanized version of curry that included more sour cream and condensed soup then curry but I still thought it was the best comfort food aside from mac n’ cheese my mom made. Over the years I have developed a fondness for spices like cardamom, mint, cumin, turmeric, ginger and allspice and in my best attempt have come pretty close to recreating some authentic dishes but let’s face it my range is limited. Instead of immersing myself in learning how to cook traditional Indian food I settled for Chicken Tikka at the neighborhood strip mall.
Until now. 🙂
Last Monday Tamarind of London opened its doors with its first US location in Newport Beach, CA. Their newest Indian restaurant is the second to open after the original Tamarind, a 12 year Michelin Star awarded restaurant located in you guessed it, London. As a food blogger guest I was invited to preview some of their dishes last weekend. We had the opportunity to sample everything from their freshly baked Naan (flat bread) to the tender Tandoori Lamb Chops with red chili. The restaurant is located in Crystal Cove Promenade, conveniently nestled between some of my favorite shopping stops including Williams Sonoma and Banana Republic. Tamarind occupies the space formerly home to Sage across from the local hot spot Javiers. Tamarind of London adopted and then beautifully adapted the existing space adding a touch of Indian shapes and colors to the existing western restaurant design.
Everything cooked in the exhibition style kitchen lends to the general feeling of openness and communal sense of family, it is a warm and inviting space. There are several private booths that run along the perimeter of the dining room in addition to the family style tables with front row views of the exhibition kitchen. You may choose to dine al fresco in the Garden Room just behind the retractable walls of the restaurant bar. No matter where you settle in for the evening make sure you try one of my two favorites from the cocktail list, the Pimm’s O’Clock (I need that recipe) or the Ginger Sutra Martini for people who love the bite of ginger. For my wine drinking friends (you know who you are) you’ll be happy to know they offer over 50 wines by the glass. The bar also serves a variety of tapas that include chili cheese toasts and taro cakes. If you are a huge bread addict like me you can order it by the basket full with a side of chutney (another recipe I want too). But don’t eat too much bread, you will want to save room for Butter Chicken and over flowing bowls of aromatic Basmati rice.
Pimms O’Clock, English inspired Pimm’s No. 1, strawberries, cucumber, oranges and fresh lemonade, the most refreshing sangria-like cocktail you’ll ever have. Ginger Sutra Hangar Kaffir Lime Vodka, Jaggery (whole cane sugar), Fresh Ginger, Fresh Lime, straight up baby.
image source: Tarmarind
Among the main courses are black peppered steak, which we hear a few lucky patrons really went nuts over the night before during a soft opening. The menu also integrates California’s selection of seasonally fresh and sustainable foods from local farmers, ranchers and fisherman with Indian classics including classic chicken tikka masala with a tomato honey sauce and fenugreek and farm vegetable curry with root vegetables, coriander and cumin. A selection of tandoor grilled kebabs include halibut with a lime leaf marinade; chicken with paprika, yogurt and ginger; and lamb chops flavored with red chile and cardamom. A number of desserts including house-made ice creams and sorbets, tropical cheesecake, carrot halwa and a 7-spiced molten chocolate cake round out the menu.
Chef Gordon Ramsey often refers to Tamarind as his favorite Indian restaurant
Indian born Chef Shachi Mehra is in charge of the Newport Beach kitchen working closely with London-based Executive Chef Alfred Prasad. “Our philosophy is to make innovative Indian cuisine accessible to the mainstream U.S. diner,” says Mehra, a veteran of two fine dining Indian icons, NY’s Tabla and Palo Alto’s Junnoon. “Indian cuisine is one of the most culturally diverse food types available. Serving as the hub of the world spice trade for over two millennia, India has influenced and been influenced by flavors, ingredients and cooking from around the globe.” Chef Mehra combines Western and Indian cultures creating dishes that successfully marry tradition with modernity. She shares her recipe for Carrot Halwa a delicious sweet milk and carrot pudding (pictured above center).
“We’re delighted to announce the much-anticipated opening of Tamarind of London and
look forward to introducing a new take on Indian food to the American public,” said Maneesh Rawat, recently appointed general manager, who has opened and managed notable Indian restaurants in Delhi, Washington DC and San Francisco. “We believe that a great meal goes beyond food, wine and service. It is an emotional experience that bonds guest and restaurant forever. At Tamarind of London, our goal is to create that extraordinary experience.”
Chief Operator Rajesh Suri explained to our table how Newport Beach beat out the potential other locations including “foodie” capitals New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Let’s just say it had something to do with our adventurous pallet and our love for fine dining experiences. I think we are quite lucky to have scored such a high caliber of Indian cuisine in our own backyard. If you are coming to Orange County soon plan on picking me up first, first round of Pimm’s are on me.
Dinner items range from $16 to $29. Hours are Monday – Saturday 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. with Happy Hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Tamarind of London is located at 7862 East Coast Hwy, Newport Beach; 949-415-8865; www.tamarindoflondon.com.