Tamarind Tribeca will open on Monday, with two levels, 175 seats, and a team of chefs rather than one executive chef. Although ordinary dishes like the dreaded chicken tikka masala make appearances, the menu is mainly composed of regional dishes from around India. Since upscale Indian in New York is essentially limited to Tabla and Devi, this could be an exciting opening.
Gurpreet Walia is the manager of the restaurant and the nephew of owner Avtar Walia. We asked Gurpreet to walk us through the menu, which is almost entirely different from that at Tamarind on 22nd Street.
Walia’s family is Punjabi, but his father is a general in the Indian army, so as a child, he traveled all over the country. He particularly remembers Jaisalmer, a desert region in Rajasthan where cooks used a lot of dried pomegranate and mango powder, since getting the fruits fresh was impossible. He’s included an okra dish from that area on Tamarind’s menu. The vegetable is spiced with onion, sesame seeds, mango, and pomegranate powders.
He also recounted a memory of boarding school, when his classmates from Rajasthan would come back from vacation with jars full of venison achaari, or pickle. (Deer were once very common in the north of India.) “I think that venison pickle was the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life,” Walia said. “Even though I’m purely vegetarian now, I still remember it.” Accordingly, venison achaari is on the menu, marinated in pickling spices. Whether or not it is as good as the boarding school version remains to be seen.
There are also dishes from the south — Goan dishes like mustard-seed-spiced duck in a thin rice crepe, served with sulfurous black salt and tangerine chutney; and both shrimp and lobster coconut curries. Chicken cooked with chiles and whole spices, like black and green cardamom and Indian bay leaf, comes from Maharashtra.
We wondered if Walia had second thoughts about opening such a large restaurant during a downturn. “I had 150 reservations last week because people thought we were opening last Monday,” he said. “I had to call them all and tell them we’re not opening till next Monday.”
Tamarind Tribeca will have a long wine list, but unfortunately, no Indian wine, which Walia says is running into importing troubles. He does, however, serve Indian beer, including giant bottles of Taj Mahal. “People ask me why the bottle is so big,” said Walia. “But I say, in Punjab, if you give them a regular sized bottle they will take offense!” Hey, us too.
99 Hudson Street