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Jonathan Gold | L.A. restaurant review: Tamarind may be SoCal's best Indian -

Stashed in: Hollywood

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Had I mistaken Tamarind's careful spicing for blandness; the mild juiciness of its chicken tikka for timidity? Was not the buttery power of the dal preferable to overcooked insipidness? Was the moistness of the biryani's base meant to contrast with the fluffier grains at top, and wasn't the blast of cardamom refreshing? Was I being unrealistic about the possibilities of Indian cooking engineered to be palatable to toffs? Clearly, I needed to reassess.

When I returned to Tamarind, sipped an old-fashioned doctored with the spice blend garam masala and nibbled on a citrusy quinoa salad that would have been the star of any meal at Hollywood's M Café, I began to relax. Those spinach-potato cakes may have been presented with the care of sushi bar scallops, but they were delicious, lightly crusted at the edges and scented with a funky edge of fenugreek. Soft-shell crabs were perhaps over-battered (and definitely out of season), but the sturdy crust was flavored with coconut and toasted fennel, and they went down like potato chips. The curries — butter chicken, beef vindaloo — were deep and complex, tinged with chile heat, almost regal. Even the plain yellow dal was fine — a good dinner.

So is Tamarind up to the standard of London's elegant Indian restaurants? It could be, although I'm thinking not. But Mayfair is not Artesia, which is not Newport Beach. And in this case, context may count.

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