Tamarine Restaurant Review, Palo Alto
Posted by Foodnut.com
Tamarine is a popular Vietnamese contemporary restaurant in downtown Palo Alto on busy University Avenue. They focus on small plates and serve food family style. Tamarine features light, but flavor-intensive culinary delicacies of Vietnam. This place is similar to Slanted Door or Xanh in Mountain View. We find the food pretty accessible with many items for mainstream palates. The owners family runs the traditional Vietnamese restaurant Vung Tau in San Jose. Our last visit was at the end of 2013.
Decor, Vibe – Very nice decor, lots of beautiful art from Vietnam. The place had lots of couples, small parties, people from a variety of age and ethnic groups. Clearly lots of high tech workers and VC types frequent Tamarine. Tamarine gets packed at night. Reserve ahead of time. They have a bar and communal table for times when you can’t get a reservation. These fill up around 6pm.
Tamarine’s Menu has a variety of starters, noodles, and entrees. Dessert menu is weak. They have a special menu during the Lunar New Year.
Tamarine Food Picks:
Tamarine’s Anti-Oxidant Mojito ($12) Myers Silver Rum, Fresh Raspberry, Fresh BlackBerry, Strawberry Puree, Fresh Lime, Club Soda was strong and balanced with a nice flavor profile. A lot better than the mojito we had previously.
Banh Mi Roti Pan fried wheat bread served with red Panang curry dipping sauce ($7) was very good. We ate it up very quickly. Additional order?
Salt & Pepper Calamari Crisp calamari wok tossed w/ garlic & spring onions. Served w/ a cilantro emulsion ($12) was very delicious. Light batter, strong cilantro sauce made this a classic here, and a good starter.
Apple & Asian Pear Salad ($12) Heart of palm, pomelo & cashews tossed with apple & pear; drizzled with a tamarind vinaigrette was very fruity and refreshing, with a lite dressing.
Kobe Beef Pho ($15) Sliced Kobe beef blanched with star anise, cinnamon & ginger beef broth; served w/ rice noodles & herbs. Wow this is a tour de force must get. Strong star anise flavored broth, excellent beef, and some thin delicate noodles. Far better than those cheap pho restaurants. Bean Sprouts are preloaded unlike most versions. Tamarine gives you some Sriracha sauce, lime, and plum sauce on the side.
Wok Pho Beef Noodles ($14) Wok-flashed rice noodles tossed with Chinese broccoli, flank steak, eggs & soy sauce was spot on. Almost like Chinese Chow fun, the noodles were wide and soft, while the quality of the meat really shined.
Pineapple Sea Bass Whole fried Branzino filet served w/ a black bean, ginger & roasted pineapple sauce ($27) is a popular dish with fresh fish that is deep fried to perfection. Good sweet and sour flavors and a beautiful look.
Spiced Honey Seared Duck ($26) Seared Sonoma duck breast drizzled with spiced honey & served with grilled pineapple & a radish cake was a bit on the tart side, but still satisfying for duck fans.
Shaking Beef ($27) Cubed beef tenderloin seared with soy, garlic & onions; served with a watercress & mizuna salad is a must order. Tender beef cooked perfectly. This dish is very good but not great. We would order the prawns over this any day.
Tamarine Prawns ($27) Flash-fried jumbo prawns tossed in Tamarine’s signature tamarind sauce & served with crisp noodles is their signature dish and a must get. Very fresh seafood along with a tangy sauce that is absorbed by the crispy vermicelli noodles. Butterflied, so there isn’t a lot of excuse to having messy hands.
Garlic Fried Rice ($7) Long-grain jasmine rice wok-fired with butter & garlic hit the spot. A bit rich, but nice flavors. We’d order it over the coconut rice.
Coconut Tapioca ($8) Coconut Milk Tapioca served with lemongrass-coconut & passion fruit sorbet drizzled with passion fruit caramel & pandan syrup was a lighter refreshing desert. Good combination of flavors.
Tamarine Mojito ($11) with Ten Cane Rum, Fresh Mango, Muddled mint & lime was filled with all these different flavors. Moderate strength. On our last visit, it wasn’t very sweet, so we had to ask for a redo.
Hoisin Lamb Chops Grilled w/ garlic & served w/ baby bok choy & sweet potato fries ($27) The lamb was a little overwhelmed by the hoisin sauce. No gaminess but not much distinct lamb flavor. Good quantities and yummy yam fries.
Sake Mushrooms Shiitake mushrooms wok fired in sake w/ sugar snap peas in a sesame oil & oyster sauce. ($10) has fresh mushrooms and crispy peas. Not too oily.
Coconut, vanilla, roasted coconut flakes Rice ($2.50) was an interesting combination. A good change of pace.
Curry Roasted Cauliflower ($10) Madras curry, garam masala & butter roasted cauliflower was a bit powdery and over crisp.
Curried long beans ($11) were chopped up really short and didn’t really have a curry flavor to them.
Tamarine’s service was above average with the waiter and servers floating around constantly. This is one of the best restaurants on Palo Alto’s University Ave and is an easy choice for those looking for fine Vietnamese cuisine. As with most other small plate places, you may order more than anticipated and your bill will reflect that. We have eaten their Tamarine Prawns several times in the past, and found it worth ordering.
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