Tamarind Indian Cuisine is just a little slip of a restaurant in a strip mall where the likes of Big Kmart and Office Depot are its much larger neighbors. But it’s a charming restaurant with a tasteful decor and a thoughtful layout, and, not incidentally, delicious food.
The main menu is extensive, with categories of chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian entrees as well as a selection of tandoori items and dosas. The lunch menu has a fraction of the items found on the dinner menu, which was disappointing at first -- I wish I had had more options, especially in terms of soups and appetizers, which are essentially nonexistent at lunchtime, a samosa being the only exception.
And the samosa is available only as an upgrade to one of the thali offerings. Luckily, I had decided on one of the thalis already, opting for the lamb curry. A thali is a round silver tray that included the main item as well as rice and a few side items, including dal, pickles and raita. I had the lamb curry, which had big chunks of meat in a thick gravy that was only moderately spicy but loaded with layers of flavors. The dal was mostly soupy with few lentils of note, but the pickles were delicious. The samosa that I ordered as an add-on was a light, flaky turnover filled with well-seasoned potatoes and peas. I couldn’t decide which of the chutneys I liked best with it, the spicy onion, mint or the sweetish tamarind.
My lunch companion chose the mysore masala dosa, an unfortunate name for a really terrific dish. A dosa is sort of like an Indian version of a crepe, except that it is made with rice batter and is huge. The dosa was served loosely rolled. If it had been fully unfurled it might have served as a tablecloth for a small cocktail table, and it had a mocha tinge that sort of made it look like wood-grained shelf liner. Only this was a lot tastier than shelf paper. It had a slathering of a spicy paste and was accompanied by potatoes and sambhar plus a mild coconut chutney. To eat it, one tears off a hunk of the dosa and, using the fillings, makes a sort of wrap sandwich. Even without my lamb curry, the dosa would have been more than the two of us could eat. And the dosa made the naan that came with my dish superfluous, which is a shame because it was very good naan, thick and doughy, just the way I like it.
Service, which was handled by a young man and woman, was pleasant and prompt. They answered questions about the menu with thoroughness and made certain our water glasses were kept full. (Even the milder curries require quaffing.)
The dining room seats roughly 40 at tables that are draped with elegant cloths underneath a layer of glass. A mural of a river valley in India graces one of the walls.
Tamarind brings fine Indian cuisine to an area of town that could use some diversification. I hope the Winter Parkers in the neighborhood welcome it.
Tamarind Indian Cuisine is at 501 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to tamarindfl.com. The phone number is 321-207-0760.