When Tamarind of London opened its first U.S. restaurant – in Newport Coast’s Crystal Cove Promenade – at the beginning of the year, there was much fanfare for its stellar location, chic interior styling and upscale Indian cuisine. Being Tamarind’s first eatery in another country hasn’t been without its challenges, though, since its corporate headquarters are a continent away.
Keema baked eggs & garlic naan
After nine months, Executive Chef Shachi Mehra determined that her operation had become a well-(olive) oiled machine, and that it was time to kick things up a notch. She’s doing that with a little help from the home team.
The chef of Tamarind’s London location, Alfred Prasad, a 10-time Michelin Star winner, relocated to Orange County last month to revamp the menu and make sure the operation was running at peak level.
Although it was a little early, I had the good fortune to give a few of the new menu items a try. I joined a friend on a Monday night. Our server, Mallory, was delightful. She had a genuine passion for the food and it showed. After discussing what we were looking for in drinks, she recommended the Tower of London martini – it was perfect, though I’m usually not a gin drinker. Made with gin, basil and cucumber, it is refreshing but not overpowering and complemented our meals’ dynamic flavors nicely.
Chef Prasad visited our table, and we asked him to provide us with a few selections from the new menu, which my friend and I shared. We were not disappointed.
We started with soft-shell crabs and a mango salad. My friend had never had soft-shell crabs before, and now she is a convert. They were lightly breaded and crusted with coconut, fennel and coriander seed, which made them crisp, light and flavorful. The salad was julienned with mango, carrots, toasted walnuts and coconut in a honey-pepper dressing – very colorful and tasty.
For our entrées, we ate family style, with a choice of lamb shank; chicken curry; slow-cooked black lentils; and spice-crusted potatoes. All were fantastic. The lamb shank was one of the best I’d ever had; it was served in a tomato-based sauce with ginger, onions and spices. The chicken curry (always a favorite) was moist and flavorful. The potatoes were fantastic – spicy and crispy.
For dessert, Mallory about killed us with the chocolate lava cake that she assured us would be better than any we’d ever tasted. I really couldn’t argue with her. This one had a spice element to it that was delicious. Served with fresh berries, it was beyond decadent.
If you haven’t been to Tamarind yet, check it out. And if you haven’t been in a while, make it a point to return. The new menu is definitely worth experiencing.
7863 East Coast Highway
Newport Beach; 949.715.8338
QUICK FACT: Tamarind recently introduced its Wine & Dine Series. Each month a three-course dinner is offered, and each dish is paired with selected wines from a featured vintner.