Restaurant of the Week: Tamarind

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Tamarind, 4047 Grand Ave. (at Pipeline), Chino; open daily.

In honor of Boxing Day, let’s visit a restaurant serving the cuisine of a former British colony. Tamarind is in the Chino Spectrum shopping mecca, a little hidden beyond a Starbucks and Jollibee and next to a Philly’s Best, facing Pipeline on the south side of Grand. It serves Indian and Pakistani food.

Two of my friends are crazy about it. I joined them one lunchtime for the buffet, which it seems every Indian restaurant is required by law to serve. It was $9 and we liked it, even yours truly, an Indian buffet-avoider. But they said dinner is better, and as I prefer ordering what I want instead of taking what I get, I joined them one evening.

We had the saag shrimp ($14.75), lamb shahi korma ($13.25), paneer tikka masala ($10.75), vegetable samosas ($3.75) and two orders of garlic naan ($3 each). Well, this was more like it, some of the best Indian food I’ve had in these parts. I would order any of those items again, and maybe one or two of the tandoori items.

“You’re missing out if you only go to the buffet,” one friend advised, because the kitchen doesn’t put out pricier lamb or shrimp dishes at lunch. The two of them always order three items to end up with leftovers, which they said are just as good the next day.

The restaurant is small, seating maybe 30 or 40. There’s a banquette running the length of one wall and a few tables. Hanging globe fixtures and mirrors add some panache. Service was attentive, although when I asked what items were specifically Pakistani, the answer was vague.

At lunchtime, Tamarind is busy, but there’s no wait for a table at night. “I don’t understand why there’s not more people here,” one of my friends said, mystified. We were the only diners. Everyone else was missing out.

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  • Doug Evans

    One possible reason this place is so empty at dinner time is that they don’t serve alcohol. Or at least they didn’t the last time my wife and I were there, which was about a year ago. Our server told us that they are happy to pour alcohol if you bring your own, but they don’t offer it for sale. She then said that some customers will buy a bottle of wine from Cost Plus World Market, just a short walk away, and then have dinner at Tamarind. We decided to do that, but, on the walk, we started talking about other places, and ended up heading to the car and driving to La Creperie across the street.

    For a non-drinker, of course, this would be a non-issue, and I want to be clear that my wife and I didn’t leave in a huff… We had every intention of buying a bottle of wine and coming back, but had enough time on the walk to talk ourselves into another restaurant. (And I should point out that a year later the wine-serving La Creperie is gone, and Tamarind is still around.) When we’ve eaten at Tamarind, we’ve enjoyed the food and the relaxed atmosphere, and I like the idea of supporting a family-owned Indian restaurant almost walking distance from my house. But on the rare date nights we’ve had since then, we’ve gone other places, and I wonder if the lack of a wine menu is keeping some people away.

    • davidallen909

      This hadn’t even occurred to us, but you may be onto something, Doug.