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Tamarind Bay, I don't get it

I went to Tamarind Bay Friday night since my usual (Cafe of India) is closed for renovations and left very confused. It was a chilly evening so I was thrilled that the room was so warm and inviting. The atmosphere is quite nice.

I was looking forward to trying out TB since hearing so much about it here on the board.

I ordered a MURGH MALAI PALAK (chicken cooked in spinach sauce). It was very very bland. My DC ordered Murgh Makhani (not on the menu) so that we could compare it to other restaurants that we enjoy. Again, this was just very boring and bland. Our meal was disappointing. The chicken in both dishes was tough as leather.
Additionally, my dinner was served on a half-moon shaped dish with a very low edge that made it just about impossible to scoop up any sauce and transfer it to my plate without having it slop on the table.

What did we miss about this place? What do people like about Tamarind Bay that they can’t get at other Indian restaurants?

I really love the combinations of different spices that make recipes unique from one Indian restaurant to another and I do realize that each batch would differ from one another; however, I just feel that the meal I had at Tamarind Bay would be a good starter meal for someone who doesn't venture far from meat and potatoes. I make a better murgh makhini at home.

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  1. "I just feel that the meal I had at Tamarind Bay would be a good starter meal for someone who doesn't venture far from meat and potatoes."

    I don't understand this statement - you DID order murgh makhani (butter chicken) which is one of the most ubiquitous, novice-friendly Indian dishes, sort of the 'pad thai' of Indian restaurants in America.

    Tamarind Bay is liked because its dishes stray away from the same old standards found at every other Indian place in town. Not the same pink chicken tikka masala, soggy mutter paneer, and greasy alu gobi that you can get anywhere.

    1. I have had some fantastic experiences at Tamarind Bay, exactly for the reasons that Prav describes -- it was the only local Indian restaurant I knew that was doing a creative, fine-dining approach to Indian without getting fusion-y with some non-Indian cuisine -- but I haven't been back in a while.

      There have been some reports that they have dumbed down the menu, and the very presence of butter chicken on the menu (a dish I associate with the kind of awful Indian place that uses this dish to recycle yesterday's tandoor chicken) isn't a good sign to me.

      Have any other Hounds some fairly fresh reports to offer?

      3 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Actually, she said that murgh makhani wasn't on the menu but they ordered it anyways.

        1. re: jgg13

          My guess is that the kitchen saw the special request for murgh makhani and perhaps assumed the diner wasn't an adventurous type and wanted to stick with what was familiar, therefore the dish was done up pretty plainly.

          1. re: Prav

            You are right, this makes sense.
            Thanks to all who shared their favorite dishes and approaches to getting the best out of a new restaurant. I must have been having an off night myself, usually I would ask the server for recs and let him know what I'm looking for.

      2. We are huge TB fans - I have never, ever ordered anything there that I could get at a run-of-the-mill Indian place . . . it's exciting to us that TB specializes in inventive cuisine. If you want to order things that are more usual, TB is not your spot. I have heard of the "dumbing down" that MC Slim reports but haven't experienced it myself . . . my husband has said he's not fond of the buffet that's offered for lunch. When we go to TB, we look for the most interesting and unusual dishes offered and also take the advice of some good Indian friends of ours and order things that aren't offered on the menu. We've also had them cater for us and the food was fantastic, as was the service - our guests are still talking about what a great, unusual meal we had. Sorry you were disappointed - but I have to say that it doesn't sound like TB is your kinda place.

        1 Reply
        1. re: gansu girl

          i've only been for the lunch buffet, and i feel that it may have gone downhill a bit over the last few years. this is only a vague impression, however, since i don't go that often. but since the board seems unified in endorsing their dinner menu....any suggestions on standouts or must-try's off the regular menu?

        2. I very much enjoy bold and inventive cuisine.
          My approach to TB for my first visit was not unlike many hounds approach to a first attempt at a new pizzeria - they order a straight red sauce and cheese pizza to get a good idea of where the kitchen stands on basics.
          I ordered the Makhani, something not on the menu in an effort to see how wonderful the dish could be when made by an inventive kitchen. I expected the kitchen to turn out a great rendition of normal ordinary but enjoyable dish; however, what came out was extremely bland and forgetful.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Snowflake

            Sorry, I think your analogy is flawed. How about, "My approach to TB for my first visit was not unlike many hounds approach to a first attempt at a new Chinese restaurant -- they order a beef and broccoli or General Gau's chicken to get a good idea of where the kitchen stands on basics"? Or "My approach to TB for my first visit was not unlike many hounds approach to a first attempt at a new Japanese restaurant -- they order a California roll or teriyaki beef to get a good idea of where the kitchen stands on basics"? Or "My approach to TB for my first visit was not unlike many hounds approach to a first attempt at a new Neopolitan trattoria -- they order a spaghetti with meatballs or a spinach calzone to get a good idea of where the kitchen stands on basics"?

            1. re: Snowflake

              Murgh makani isn't a dish made from leftover tandoori chicken. While it's a basic dish at one level, it also takes skill and effort to produce a delicious version. Among other things, this can involve hours if not overnight marination in yogurt and spices. Whipping one up at the last minute, without advance preparation, would be unlikely to result in an exemplary version.

            2. I recently went there myself for the first time--and LOVED it. Had, in fact, the Chicken in the Spinach Sauce, and thought it delightful and extremely flavorful. The chicken in our dishes was definitely not leathery--maybe you hit an off night? Regardless, if you're looking for inventive, it might be worth a second trip to try out some of the items that really give the kitchen license for creativity.

              1. Like others, I've also really enjoyed the creative and unique dishes at Tamarind Bay. I usually let them give me recommendations and specials. (I've only been there for dinner; with the exception of one restaurant I never do lunch buffets)

                I don't have any recent experience, though, since the last few visits were disappointing. Very salty once, rather bland or uninspired the next two times. It's been over a year since I was there-- hopefully these were isolated incidents, or at most a temporary slide?

                1. I understand the wanting to compare known things, I'll actually do the same with Tikka Masala if I'm at a typical indian place. When we go to TB though we experiment as much as possible, but so far our favs have to be the Mysore Chilli Chicken and the Okra, which is best with Poori IMO. Better luck next time.

                  1. I know that lunch buffets might not be completely indicative, often being watered down, etc., but I found Tamarind Bay's buffet to be the worst of those I've tried in the last year or so, below Cafe of India's. Namaskar's was my favourite. However as a Brit I have different ideas of what westernised Indian food can be like and in general I find everything around these parts disappointing. I am holding out a small shred of hope for my eventual visit to Grain and Salt.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chickendhansak

                      The TB buffet is average and is a totally different animal from their dinner menu. I don't know why, but that's how it is there. If you go there for dinner sometime, try having the lalla mussa dhal, or shaahi baigan (eggplant), or the mysore chili chicken. Those three have impressed everyone I've taken there so far, so they seem like good bets. I have to agree that sometimes there'll be a dish that doesn't live up to my expectations but those three I listed keep me coming back.

                      1. re: chickendhansak

                        I agree with this. My favorite buffet is either Namaskar or Kebab Factory.

                        1. re: aventinus

                          Since this posting I've moved near Kebab Factory and have the buffet about
                          once a week. It is definitely very good, especially for an all-you-can-eat buffet.
                          I'll rate it the highest in town that I know of.

                          Kebab Factory's menu items are also very good and different. It's great to have this locally. But, I still think Grain and Salt was the best I've had in Boston.

                      2. Go into it thinking of an upscale restaurant serving refined, Indian-inspired cuisine, not an Indian restaurant. I think it's really good, but there's something to be said for gritty, greasy, spicy Indian food also. You have to be careful to combine the blandish, rich dishes at Tamarind Bay with the "spicier" dishes.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: aventinus

                          I love Tamarind Bay, but they do seem to have quality control problems. Hopefully, they will address this, bc when they are good, I think there are by far the best Indian restaurant in the Boston area. Unfortunately, sometimes (maybe when the head chef has the night off) they are not at their best. By the way, I think their Lamb Bhuna is my favorite.

                          1. re: aventinus

                            aventius: ?? Not an Indian restaurant? "Indian-inspired?" It's not fusion, you know. It *is* Indian. Just higher-end than, say, the Dhaba.

                          2. we had been last year and were left wondering what all the fuss was about. found all the dishes we ordered either plain or just plain not good. we also found the dining room to be more than a little grubby with greasy handprints on the wall and door next to our table.

                            might give it another try, but i doubt it.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ScubaSteve

                              I lived in London for a year, and never there even found a place with better chicken tikka masala (Lazeez Tika Masala at Tamarind bay I believe). Although I must admit I have been dissapointed in going there once or twice, but very very rarely, as it still remains one of my favorite places.

                              1. re: chriskantos

                                The rack of lamb is quite good actually. Tender, delicate and spiced perfecly, I'd absolutely go back for this dish alone. I've always been impressed with this place.

                                1. re: Mr Bigglesworth

                                  I agree that the rack of lamb is really good...The last time, I was tempted to order another portion! The lobster entree is also scrumptious.

                            2. just reading through this older thread as we've recently moved here and are considering trying out tamarind bay. one thing i'm having a hard time establishing is how expensive it is-- the online menu doesn't have prices, they don't have a menu posted outside, and i've seen everything from "reasonable" to "splurge" used to describe it. if anyone could tell me the cost of an average main and/or meal for two, i would greatly appreciate it.

                              5 Replies
                                1. re: lettezilla

                                  Two of us enjoyed two mid-priced main dishes - scallops and lamb - plus one rice (a generous portion) and one naan, no beverages, no desserts, for about $40 last week.

                                  1. re: peregrine

                                    thank you peregrine and sara, that should really help us decide whether to try it now or save it for a fancier evening.

                                    1. re: lettezilla

                                      i just wanted to feed back on our meal on friday. we phoned that afternoon to make a reservation, and were able to get the time we wanted with no problem. glad we did as people were waiting for tables.

                                      we decided to share everything, and got 2 starters, 3 mains, rice and a bread basket for 4 people. two glasses of wine and one beer, total was right around $100 including tip. we all enjoyed the food-- the starters didn't seem like great value, two air-filled puffs were $9, but cheezy bits were tasty. the long-soaked lentils were a tad spicy for me (i'm a wuss), but the other three enjoyed, and i loved the spices used in the chickpeas. also had the tandoori cooked cheese, which was good but not amazing. bread was fresh and great. the amount of food was perfect, there was a tiny bit left over, and everyone was full.

                                      overall, it was the best indian food i've had in the US. not greasy, creative spices, lots of options. that said, it was priced at a higher point that i would expect for typical indian, so i would agree with the poster above who said to think of it as almost fine dining rather than indian.

                                      service was busy but friendly and helpful, by the way. we'll probably go back and not bother with drinks at all, and just get a few key things.

                                      1. re: lettezilla

                                        I ate at the Harvard Square location tonight. I've eated in great Indian restaurants in New York, London, even India, and cook southern Indian, and given the board and published reviews, had high expectations. But it was average -- a touch above your standard fare, but nothing special, So I asked the person who seemed to be the manager. It turns out that the original chef rarely cooks at this location -- only at the Brookline location.