Tamarind of London
7862 E. Pacific Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Yes, we just visited Tamarind about two months ago. This jewel of Indian cuisine by the sea, really awakened our love of Indian food when we were here last. So when we were offered a chance to try their Diwali menu, and give away a $100 gift card to one of our readers, we could not have been happier to make the sacrifice to dine at Tamarind again.
First of course I had to look up what Diwali was. I knew it was a holiday celebrated in India, Pakistan and other countries, but I did not know much else until I took a trip to Google. There I learned it is a Hindu fall festival, which celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and hope over despair. On Diwali night Hindus dress up in their best clothes, light up candles and lamps, participate in family prayers, and then partake in a family feast and exchange presents. Sounds like a great night, and we got a little taste of it at Tamarind at Newport Coast last week.
For those of you not sure where Tamarind is located, it's in the same shopping center as Javier's, right along scenic Coast Highway. The accolades keep piling up for this restaurant. Not only was this named, "the best Indian food" in Southern California, by famed LA Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, but they also just won a Golden Foodie Award for best Indian food in all of OC, an honor they have won before. After eating here a couple months ago, we felt all this praise was well warranted.
We arrived here for this visit at 6pm on a recent Monday night. The dining room is very elegant, with a nice view of the kitchen , and a closeup look at the tandoori ovens. Since we were eating with other raucous food bloggers, we were sat on the bar side, which had a nice and peaceful spa feeling to it. Our dining companions for this evening were Shelly from Nibbles of Tidbits, Wendy from Wendyfulworld, Michael from Eating Around So Cal, Chelsea from OC Food Diva, and our good friend Minerva, from the great Much Ado About Fooding. It's always wonderful to catch up with these guys, and even better when there's great food involved. The food was starting to make its way out to us, so lets see if this experience would be as good as our last.
We started things off with these Fried Naan and a Trio of Chutneys. I had never had fried naan before, and I have to say I was impressed. I prefer this to the papadam we had on our first visit here. The naan had a crunch to it, and was still a little soft on the inside. The chutneys of course were all great, but my favorite was the apricot-fennel one. I liked the sweetness in it.
There were two platters offered for the first course, the first of which was this Vegetarian Platter. Most of you know by now that I am pretty partial to meat, but this was not too bad. This plate featured from left to right, Hara Bara, Paneer Tikka, and Aloo Tikki. The hara bara is very falafel like, but it's made out spinach instead of chickpeas, with potatoes and peas added. This North Indian snack was paired with my favorite chutney, the apricot one. The paneer tikka was not greasy like some versions can be, and the cheese was subtle. My favorite of the three was the Aloo Tikki, which is a potato cake with cumin and ginger present, and a smoked tomato chutney smeared alongside of it. Chef Imran Ali made me like vegetables with this platter.
Of course I was much more in my comfort zone when my Kebab Platter arrived with Malai Chicken, Swordfish Tikka, and Lamb Kebab. The lamb was not my favorite thing on this plate. It was a tad over cooked, and kind of on the gritty side. One thing we learned on our last visit here, is that they do seafood perfectly at Tamarind. We had an excellent sea bass on that visit, and the tradition continues with this swordfish. It had a wonderful flavor, and was cooked to a perfect tenderness. I could have eaten a lot more of this, than the chunk we were given. The chicken was equally tender, which is a rarity these days when we go out to eat. A very good start to our Diwali menu.
The drink menu at Tamarind is not meant to be overlooked. Even though Katie doesn't like to drink, she had plenty of options on this night. She selected the Strawberry Mojito. This classic mojito had all the usual suspects included, mint and lime muddled together, and mixed with fresh strawberries, then topped with Sprite. Not as sweet as she expected, this was a very refreshing mock-tail. The last time I was here I had their Tower of London, which I liked, but I wanted to try something different. So I went with the Narangi Crush. This citrus based beverage contained vodka, Chase Elderflower, muddled blood oranges in a simple syrup, and a splash of grapefruit, which toned down the sweetness in this drink. When drinking this it was like liquid sunshine. A very happy drink, that could really get me into some trouble if I hadn't limited myself to only one of these. I think I have found my favorite beverage on their drink menu.
The food was just about to make its way out for us, but first they brought out some Garlic Naan, which is very addictive. The garlic was very prevalent on this, and the aroma could be whiffed from across the table. They are wizards with the tandoori ovens that churn out this naan at Tamarind.
Since we were such a large group, we were served family style from the four offerings of the Diwali menu. Not only were there four entrees, but they also provided Saffron Rice, Raita, and Dal Amritsari, which is a Northern Indian dish of lentils, which was quite hearty. All of the sides were well made and delicious. Let's take a closer look at the entrees we had on this night.
I've never really been a big fan of eggplant. I think it might be a texture thing, but this Achari Baingan is the closest I have come to liking the purple vegetable. The version had baby eggplant paired with tomatoes, Frank pepper, and a Kashmiri chili stew. This had a great spice to it, which intensified when I took this for lunch the next day. If you like eggplant, and love spice, this is definitely for you.
Katie's favorite item at Tamarind when we went here the first time was this Butter Chicken, and I have to admit I was pretty excited to see it on this Diwali menu as well. Bite sized chicken pieces are bathed in a creamy light tomato sauce, which I swear would be great on anything. The chicken was tender, and that sauce was full of flavor. Still one of our favorites here.
Again the only miss for me on this night involved the lamb again. This Classic Rogan Josh had large pieces lamb in a Kashmiri stew that was not as spicy as the one used in the eggplant dish. The lamb was a little overcooked, and the stew was a little too passive for my tastes.
I was shocked that this vegetarian entree impressed me as much as it did. The Navrattan Khorma included seasonal veggies, paneer and pomegranate, all in a rich curry. I must not have been the only one to like this, as there was not any left for us to take home. Going to try this again on my next visit to Tamarind.
The dessert course of this Diwali menu was a Chef's Platter with Diwali Sweets. Just like the last time we were here, Pastry Chef Mark Medina made a traditional rice pudding with pistachios on top, a rose flavored paneer, and my favorite of the three, a honey filled doughnut like concoction, which brought to mind the loukoumades that we get at the Greek booth at the Orange Street Fair every year. This was all capped with a mint covered leaf drizzled in chocolate.
Unfortunately I did not get this post done in time for you all to enjoy this Diwali menu, but the good news is that no matter what you choose to eat at Tamarind, chances are that you will leave happy. See for yourself if all of the awards and accolades are deserved at Tamarind by entering our contest to win a $100 gift card. Just follow the steps below, and you might be a winner.
We need to thank everyone at Tamarind for their warm hospitality. Everyone from the hostess, the bussers, wait staff, and the manager were all so nice and answered all of our inquiries. We would also like to thank the very talented chef, Imran Ali for all the fantastic food, and even taking the time away from his busy kitchen to make sure we were enjoying our meal. Thanks for everything Chef.
For more information about Tamarind of London, go to their website here: http://www.tamarindoflondon.com/
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