Homey, flavorful, and fresh: Tamarind is worth waiting for | Restaurant Reviews | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Homey, flavorful, and fresh: Tamarind is worth waiting for

CP's Maggie Weaver goes with the chili gobi, a peanut dosa, seekh kabab, saag paneer, naan, and chai

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CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
  • CP photo: Maggie Weaver

“Is this someone’s house?”

Even with the sign at the sidewalk and a clear view of diners, I was still unsure. Tamarind Flavor of India is housed in an old Victorian-style home. I opened the door tentatively, half expecting an angry mother to storm down the stairs. Thankfully, I was greeted with a hallway open to a buzzing dining room.

Almost all of the tables were full. I was taken to a table in what would be the front room, sandwiched between two couples. The space was intimate, made more so by the PDA experts to my right.

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I surveyed the dining room and noticed entrees were arriving slowly and at varied times. I put in an order: chili gobi, a potato dosa, seekh kabab, saag paneer, naan, and chai. Menus were taken and I settled in for what I knew was going to be a long wait.

My first arrival was the chai, a milky tea with slight hints of cardamom and ginger. I guzzled it down before the first round of food, chili gobi.

The cauliflower gobi was mild, sautéed in sauce and herbs with green onions and peppers. It tasted similar to sweet and sour chicken. The caramelized sauce added a crunch to the cauliflower. The peppers, which I believed were mellow, green bell peppers, were intense. I tossed a pepper into my mouth only to sputter and cough loudly. Everyone in the restaurant turned to gape at my low spice tolerance (except the neighboring couple, who were busy).

Entrees appeared one at a time, starting with the seekh kabab. The minced lamb was grilled in the tandoor oven and had a consistency similar to a sausage. I could hear the dish before I saw it. The onions and lamb were sizzling when delivered. The yellow lentil sauce was too mild; I wanted it a little sharper to match the gamey meat.

CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
  • CP photo: Maggie Weaver

Saag paneer followed. It's one of my favorite dishes, fresh cheese in a spinach and cream sauce, and Tamarind’s saag was the best I have had. This sweet, rich saag was not overwhelmingly savory or under-spiced. Sweetness balanced out the cream, rounding out the dish. Tamarind’s paneer was undoubtedly fresh, like a fried piece of tofu. I was in love.

I finished with the dosa, a crepe made from lentils and potato. The edges were crisp and the center soft, buttery, and mixed with fragrant herbs. Two sauces paired with the dosa, a lentil sambar and chutney. Again, I was lost on the sauce, not sold on the mellow lentils or chalky chutney, but the server saved the day. I asked about each topping, launching us into a sauce discussion, and he brought out three other sauces to taste: tamarind, coconut, and mint. These were fantastic complements to the dosa with sharp and distinct flavors.

If the food is good enough, no wait is too long. Whatever the issue: an understaffed restaurant, a triple-sat server, or just an off-night for the restaurant, Tamarind is worth waiting for.

Tamarind Flavor of India. 257 N. Craig St., Oakland. tamarindflavorofindiapa.com

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