I was THRILLED to be able to be chosen for a Tamarind of London review assignment for Tiny Oranges. Not only do I love food, but I love, love, LOVE INDIAN food! In fact, 11 years ago, my husband and I went on our first date to Indian food and it holds a special place in our hearts. Then a few years later, we traveled to London (before kids, of course!) and had about the best Indian food ever.
We have tried a few Indian restaurants in Orange County, and while the food was great, the ambiance was less than mediocre. If we are going to pay a babysitter and get ourselves out to dinner…it better be great food AND great ambiance. Situated in the lovely Crystal Cove Shopping Center, Tamarind of London was the perfect marriage of those two ingredients.
We were seated on the side of the restaurant with a large wrap-around bar and fantastic patio with a beautiful fire pit. Uber dark and uber romantic. Perfection for a date with the hubs that has been a long time coming!
I ordered the Narangi Crush (Premium Vodka, Chase Elderflower, freshly muddled blood oranges in simple syrup, splash of Grapefruit) and the hubs got Pimm’s PM (Muddled Molrello Cherries, Lemon, Pimm’s No.1, Premium Gin, housemade sour mix and topped with soda). Both were DELICIOUS. I only wish I could have had one more…but it was a Monday night!
Before I get into my Tamarind of London review, let me give you a little background on the restaurant.
Tamarind of London is the sister to Tamarind restaurant in Great Britain, which has received the Michelin star for each of the past 13 years. The restaurant is guided by a philosophy that seeks to blend cultural authenticity with mainstream accessibility.
Tamarind of London pays homage to India’s flavorful traditional favorites while artfully integrating California’s robust selection of seasonal, fresh and sustainable ingredients in every dish.
We had the pleasure of meeting Chef Imran Ali and he showed us the 3 specialized tandoori ovens that each cook at different temperatures. He has been at the restaurant for about one year, and is an absolute treasure. He really takes pride in the food served here in that it is authentic. No fusion here! It’s also important to note that the 5 staff in his kitchen are from all parts of the continent, which is how he likes to showcase the different flavors and techniques used in different regions.
As for the dishes we sampled, everything was absolutely delicious. Indian food is traditionally served family-style. So come hungry. Very hungry.
For the appetizers, we tasted spiced masala-potato croquette, the spinach and potato dumpling, the tandoori swordfish and the caramelized tandoori tikki chicken morsels. Each were served with amazing sauces that really brought out the rich and unique flavor of each one.
The chicken morsels may have been my favorite. Wait, I can’t pick a favorite! All were amazing. And the Goat Cheese stuffed Naan?? What?? Imagine a pillowy, flavorful pita-like bread stuffed with goat cheese. Unreal.
The dishes were served with traditional Indian basmati rice and a lentil dish that went nicely with everything. All entrees are reasonably priced at $26-$29 each and we had seriously enough food for 4 meals. Do you even know how good Indian leftovers are?! Let’s just say it’s as good as Thai or Asian food, for sure.
We had the Coconut Prawn Curry in a rich creamy curry sauce with notes of ginger and coconut. It was warm and spicy and simply delicious. The Chicken Tikka Masala, even though I’ve had this dish many times, was extraordinary. The chicken was tender and the sauce was spicy, but not overwhelming. Just perfect.
The Lamb Roganjosh ((even though I am not usually a lamb fan!) was amazing too. The lamb was so tender and mild and was in a traditional sauce that is dark and rich with browned onions, tomatoes and Kashmiri red chilies. It truly was the perfect blend of spices.
But…the best dish of ALL…was the Tandoori Sea Bass. I must say, I have never had Chilean Sea Bass prepared this way, and it was to die for. It was marinated in saffron, ginger and green chilies and served with an apricot curry sauce and an Indian risotto. The tandoori oven makes the outside of the fish crisp and the inside is SO moist and flavorful. It was for sure my favorite and I will get it when we go back!
Our attentive server Frankie suggested a nice syrah to pair with the food and it was the perfect pairing. It was strong enough to stand up to the bold and spicy flavors and was even great with the sea bass.
Dessert?? Yes, please! I had to unsnap my skinny jeans, but I did it. We were served a sampler of Cardamom Ice Cream, Tandoori Pineapple and a traditional Rice Kheer. They were rich, but surprisingly light after the ridiculous amounts of food we had already consumed. The sweet flavors cut the spiciness of the curry sauces and left us feeling VERY satisfied.
So, this was a date night we will not forget! We will for SURE be back to this little gem of a restaurant. We did see they have a happy hour with great food and beverage specials and also a kids menu ($5 entrees!). We love our boys to try all types of cuisines and this is for sure next on our list to take them.
Thank YOU to Frankie, Chef Imran Ali and the wonderful staff at Tamarind of London. We are SURE to be back.