The Story: Woke up craving Naan, Indian bread which cooks perfectly only in a Tandoor and I confess my repeated failed attempts at recreating it in my kitchen. Chatter about the new Indian Restaurant Tamarind in Winter Park through the grape-vine coupled with my craving was sufficient to take a drive to try to satiate my hunger.
The Scene: Sandwiched in a strip mall near Kmart and Office Depot, Tamarind is unobtrusively plain-looking from the street. One steps into a relatively small space, tastefully decorated with colorful tablecloths, tiled mirrors, wall murals, and delicate chandeliers. My first thought was to definitely make reservations before I head out for dinner.
The Food: The menu combines typical Tandoori Muglai cuisine coupled with South Indian staple favorites. Considering this is the third restaurant by Mr. Kumar; at first glance it seems to encompass the best of his other popular restaurants Aashirwaad and Bombay Café.
The lunch menu is a sparse example of their dinner offerings; leaning towards luncheon platters which if I had to guess were designed to attract the dash in and out corporate crowd in the surrounding locale by keeping the menu limited and convenient to save time and turn tables fast.
The food to my pleasant surprise was rather decent compared to rest of the Indian restaurants in CFL. The lunch portions are huge and 2 people could easily share one thali though the prices in comparison to dinner aren’t per se significantly lower.
The Chicken Tikka Masala was made with tandoori chicken (not plain chicken) adding the extra oomph to the dish. It was adequately spiced (by Indian-American standards) and was served with fresh naan and basmati rice highly fragrant with cloves and cardamom. My thali also came with dal, fresh salad, raita, and pickle. The raita for a change wasn’t watered down; all in all a tasty and wholesome meal.
The naan hot from the oven slathered with butter was thin and crispy making me indulge in seconds.
My daughter ordered the Paneer Bhurji Dosa (cottage cheese stuffing). The crepe was lightly fermented leaving a delicate tangy flavor; the sambhar was authentic in taste with a light hand on spices; though the coconut chutney could have benefited from using freshly grated coconut instead of coconut powder.
Even though we were reeling from carb overdose, being our first time we had to try some Indian desserts. The server proudly informed me that since they operate 3 restaurants, all desserts are made in-house. With great skepticism I ordered the Mango Ice Cream and Rasmalai.
The mango ice cream was bursting with mango flavor but did have a hint of after taste (perhaps they used canned pulp?)
The rasmalai too my astonishment was truly an authentic reproduction of the ‘Bengali’ style sprinkled with pistachios. Rasmalai is my personal favorite Indian sweet which I typically eat my heart out on my annual trips to Delhi. I couldn’t help scrutinizing the difference between East Indian and North Indian version of Rasmalai. That said, my fellow foodie friend concurred too at how delicious this version was, kudos to the kitchen.
Bottom line: The wait staff was friendly and polite but lacked the discerning eye for basic table service like clearing the table of dirty dishes before serving the dessert or cheque .
Their website could greatly benefit from making it user-friendly. No point having social media links if the back links don’t work.
Reluctantly but with assurance I can state that Tamarind Restaurant might be my ‘to go’ restaurant when I am craving Indian food and for a change would like to be dined and wined rather than slaving in the kitchen. Over all the food was fresh, tasty, flavorful; the staff is knowledgeable and eager to please. Winter Park residents are fortunate to add Tamarind to their long list of the best dining spots in Orlando.