Yes, Tamarind, located in the heart of Tribeca, is an Indian restaurant that’s been around for over two decades, but it’s not tired. In fact, it is a sensational place with a star that shines brighter than ever.
Owner Avtar Walia opened the first location in the Flatiron District in 2001, with the Tribeca location following ten years later (the Flatiron location has since closed). Walia says that he wanted to offer an Indian food experience that hadn’t previously existed in the country. “When I looked at restaurants from other cultures like Italian, French, Japanese, all of them Michelin-starred, that led me to create one of my own,” he told me, when I first covered him on Forbes.com several years ago. . “I felt that the Indian culture has the knowledge, the rich culture and the innovation to do it too.”
He continued: “I said I wanted to have a place like any French or Italian restaurant. My competition will be with those people. I want to compete with places like Jean-Georges,” he said at the time.
Walia has achieved her vision and more: The restaurant is considered the godfather of high-end Indian cuisine in the United States and was a hotspot from the moment it opened. Celebrities were, and still are, among the regulars: Robert Redford, Taylor Swift, Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman and many more. Diners also include stylish millennials, titans of industry, and high-profile Indians like the Ambanis (one of the world’s richest families) who dine only at Tamarind when in New York. It’s no wonder why reserves are such a commodity.
I can tell you that it is one of my favorite places to dine, not only in New York but anywhere, to tell you the truth, and on par with the best restaurants in the world.
A meal here hits all the right notes: the split-level restaurant is stylish with a distinct modern aesthetic and wood finishes that add warmth. High ceilings create spaciousness and add to the grandeur of the space. Tamarind also has a stunning outdoor setting with elegant cabanas for privacy and tables lining the perimeter. On a beautiful night, this is the area where you want to be.
Before we even enter the main dining room, let’s talk about the bustling bar. You can happily spend an evening here and enjoy the vibrant surroundings, along with delicious cocktails and a stellar lineup of spirits and wines. The wine list encompasses more than 200 varietals, including such showcase names as Petrus, Caymus, and Amarones Raros. The spirits list is also changing with selections like Japanese whiskeys and Clase Azul añejo tequila.
Now for the main event: Walia’s team of chefs have worked with it the entire time it’s been open, and its talent shows.
The menu includes many of the original dishes from the restaurant’s debut, but is constantly updated with creative new interpretations. Whether you’re an omnivore or a vegan, a meal here will leave you satisfied. Meat staples include lamb chops, leg of lamb, Kashmir goat, and a Punjabi-style chicken kebab.
Seafood is also a standout. While India isn’t necessarily known for its seafood, Tamarind proves that theory wrong. Walia points out that the country has numerous coastal areas such as Mumbai. “There, you can get the freshest seafood,” he says. “Many of these dishes are top sellers on our menu.” He tries the Kerala fish curry, the halibut with coconut and ginger sauce, the baked sole or the giant scallops with poppy seeds. Or maybe lobster masala is more your style.
And I can’t leave out the vegetarian specialties like lachedar bhindi or okra with dried mango, Baigan or Japanese eggplant with peanuts and sesame seeds, and kofta, hearty lotus root dumplings in onion and saffron sauce.
Side dishes are a key part of any Indian meal. They are the highlight in Tamarind. Try spinach and garlic rice, baked basmati rice with vegetables, walnuts and raisins, and tandoor baked breads like whole wheat roti and broccoli cheese nan.
Desserts are often an afterthought at Indian restaurants, but at Tamarind, nothing is an afterthought. Sweet endings are numerous here and all are worth the splurge. Kulfi is a killer and comes in pistachio or mango flavor, the cardamom creme brulee is a perfect take on a French classic, and the rasmalai, pressed cheese with milk and rosewater syrup, is refreshing and indulgent at the same time.
But my accolades aside, there’s a reason why Tamarind has been going strong for over 20 years and appeals to regular devotees and new fans alike. Come experience for yourself what they are talking about.