99 Hudson Street, Tribeca, 212-775-9000
Rating: 5 out of 5 Ls
If your idea of a fun Indian restaurant involves stumbling over fellow diners and swatting chili pepper lights out of your face to squeeze into a teeny table, then Tamarind Tribeca probably isn't for you. But if you want to get gussied up for a fancy Indian dinner, you'd be hard-pressed to do better. This neutral-toned behemoth, an outpost of Tamarind on 22nd Street, seats 175. Teak paneling swathes the floors, walls and roomy booths. Upholstered chairs are tucked under white tablecloths, and the second level of seating is surrounded by a partial wall of shimmering glass. From the high ceilings hang huge petal-thin lanterns with gold tassels suspended from their centers: they cast a soft golden glow, as though turmeric had been sprinkled in the air like fairy dust.
Downtown Dal at Tamarind Tribeca
Despite the swanky setting, you'll find some familiar dishes on the menu. In fact, Tamarind's spiffy windowed kitchen churns out a fine chicken tikka masala. At $20, it's pricier than the $11.95 tikka masala at your go-to Indian takeout joint, but this dish is eight bucks better: juicy chicken is encased in a crisp crust, doused in a sauce with depth of flavor and a touch of heat. Split the dish alongside the Hyderabadi baingan ($16.50), baby eggplant simmered with chilies, dates, fennel, mustard seeds and malt vinegar, and you've got a winning dinner at a decent price. Unfortunately, you've got to drop another $5.50 on basmati rice, and an additional $4 on fresh, fluffy naan—and by going the safe route, you'll miss the restaurant's most interesting offerings.
You can make your own tasting menu by sharing a bunch of appetizers, and if they're pushing lasuni gobi ($14) as a special, don't miss it. The deep-fried cauliflower in a thick and fragrant tomato-based sauce is similar to the Manchurian cauliflower at Devi, 18th Street's beloved upscale-Indian spot, and it's delectable. One of the best bites on the menu comes in the form of nizami keema ($11), a combo of grilled lamb strips with savory ground lamb that's spiked with lemon zest, cinnamon, and cloves, and baked in a naan bun. Another item on the appetizer menu, the bhoj puri samosa ($8), pairs spiced potatoes with fresh pomegranate in a crisp turnover. And in the tasty bataki kosha ($10.50), juicy, garlicky, gingery duck is rolled in a rice crepe and topped with sweet tangerine chutney. No room for dessert? Wash it down with a refreshing cucumber gimlet ($12) or a sweet and cooling mango lassi ($5) and call it a night.
Photos by Ashley Minette