By A. Paul Mitchell, London Dining Review
The popularity of Asian cuisines has risen simultaneously to a greater trend of fusing refined European plating with simple traditional ingredients. But can simple rice dishes be sophisticated? Tamarine takes the best of customary Vietnamese food and makes it glamorous in a similarly stylish atmosphere.
I grab a seat on one of the leather banquettes and take time to absorb the view. Unlike Quynh Nhi, its humble sister restaurant on Wharncliffe, this bright modern-inspired décor is smartly impressive. Minimalist in concept, the sleek dark wood floors and shiny steel trim blends with dark browns and a neutral paint palate creating a visually stunning ambiance. A long stone bar from which martinis are served is another indication that this is not your typical pho noodle hut.
The menu features the usual selection of spring rolls ($6.00), barbeque pork vermicelli dishes ($16.00), and the ubiquitous Pad Thai ($14.00) but with a modern fashionable twist. My Yellow Curry ($14.00) is picturesque bowl of delicately spicy coconut cream broth enhanced with cumin and lemongrass. Below the surface await large pieces of tender chicken, bamboo shoots and potato. A fluffy Jasmine rice pyramid accompanies my dish.
Although the dishware is attractively contemporary, the high sides make mixing the rice with the sauce a cumbersome affair. However awkward it is to eat, the deep intense flavor is worth the effort. A fresh citrusy Mekong cocktail balances sweet and sour notes with the rich curry tones.
Fancy interior design and gourmet plating come at a cost and the prices at Tamarine reflect their sophisticated intention. With appetizers and mains, the tab can rise quickly yet the meal’s enjoyment makes it a very worthwhile experience.
118 Dundas Street (at Talbot)
Hours: Monday to Friday, 11:00 am – 9:00 pm; Saturday, 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm; closed Sunday
Rating: ****½ (4.5)