Before I start writing about the food, drinks and ambiance of Tamarind (formerly Duetto and previously Viceroy), I would like to talk about why Tamarind is the way it is. The essence of Tamarind can be found in one person, Mr. Rajeev Bhasin, the Managing Director. A veteran in the restaurant business, Rajeev has seen many fads and equally as many restaurants come and go. Hailing from New Delhi, the (food) capital of India, Rajeev has grown up immersed in the wealthy history of Mughlai and North Indian food. Being from Delhi myself, our conversation took us both on a journey to the smokey streets of Old Delhi, where you will find legendary kebabs and non-vegetarian dishes rich in taste and equally rich in history. I spent a good time talking about his experiences in the restaurant business; his love of authentic Mughlai cuisine and street food is something he has incorporated at Tamarind.
The Indian kitchen chef, Ravilal Bhandari has been hand-picked by Rajeev, to make sure that his passion for authenticity is carried forward. In the Thai and Vietnamese kitchen Chef Amoo from Thailand teams up to make Tamarind an authentic Pan-Asian restaurant. The view is one of the most spectacular in Hong Kong, and definitely a place to bring ‘out of towner’s to impress.
Pani Poori Trio: A crispy fried ball of flour filled with tangy potatoes served with shots of 3 different flavours of water – Tamarind, Beetroot and Mint. The dish is presented beautifully with the puffs resting on top of the shot glasses. For the uninitiated, this water is supposed to be poured into the puffs and then the puff eaten whole. The beetroot flavoured water is a variation of a wintery drink in North West India called “Kanji” – spicy yet refreshing.
Seekh Kebab – Spiced minced lamb hand rolled and cooked slowly in a ‘Tandoor’ (clay oven). What I loved is that I didn’t have to gulp down a gallon of water right after having a bite. It’s flavourful without being overly spicy.
Rice Paper Rolls – Vietnamese speciality of crispy soft shell crabs, Mango and fresh herbs – rolled into rice paper and steamed. The mango goes well with the crab and makes this a fairly light appetizer.
Chicken Makhani – Or Butter Chicken as this dish is more commonly known by, is fillets of tandoori chicken in a rich tomato gravy. It is the herbs and spices you use in the gravy that makes this dish stand out or be forgotten. Luckily Chef Bhandari has perfected the recipe over years and it stands out in the spread as a creamy wholesome affair doused with a generous helping of dried fenugreek.
Dal Makhani – Black lentils cooked over a long time and simmered with butter and cream. A very technical dish, the Dal shows the experience of the chef. The lentils are kept overnight in the kitchen’s oven. One of the best Dal Makhanis being served in Hong Kong, not to be missed. Best had with Naan: Indian clay oven flat bread.
Wok Fried Vegetables with Chili & Garlic – Straight from Chef Amoo’s kitchen is your stir fried broccoli, mushroom and asparagus. The vegetables are crunchy just the way they are supposed to. The chili & garlic bring out the inherent flavours of the vegetables, rather than to drown them.
Lamb Dum Biryani – Dum cooking is a centuries old technique of cooking slowly in a pressured pot. Boneless pieces of lamb are marinated for few hours and then cooked together with rice and a lot of aromatic herbs and then cooked on a pot sealed with wheat dough. Once cooked, the dish is garnished lavishly with mint leaves and saffron. Normally, Biryanis are fiery, but at Tamarind, the focus is on the fusion of all the flavours. If you take your Biryani as a challenge against your taste buds and sweat glands, you might want to skip this.
Shahi Dum Tamatar – A chef specialty and a must try for people who like milder palates. Tomatoes are stuffed with spiced cottage cheese (paneer) and cooked in the tandoor. After which they are cooked in a thick creamy cashewnut sauce.
Desserts include Jalebi (deep fried dough in squiggly shape and soaked in sugar syrup), Rasmalai (sugary cream balls of cottage cheese soaked in creamy milk) and Kulfi (creamy ice cream with nuts and cardamom).
Overall, Tamarind is the closest you can get to Pan Asian fine dining in Hong Kong with amazing views. Two dining halls and an outside seating area combines to make it a preferred spot for parties and even weddings. The restaurant serves mostly classic food with a touch of contemporary. Extensive wine list to go with the variety of the menu and a list of in house cocktails – Bollywood is a must try. The menu changes often and I would not be surprised if the restaurant moves into a more contemporary cuisine with time.
Tamarind – 2/F, Sun Hung Kai Centre, 30 Harbour Rd., Wan Chai, Hong Kong, Phone: 2827-7777
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Photographs captured by Chandni Chotrani