One sexy plateEat This!, Latest Issue Thursday, October 12th, 2017
I was on my way to see Greensky Bluegrass – a five-piece “newgrass” band known for their improvisation and multi-set shows – at the Observatory in North Park and decided to grab a bite before the show. I dashed across the street to Tamarindo, a place I’d never been before but was recommended by trusted friends.
Tamarindo opened their doors six months ago in the space formerly occupied by Claire de Lune coffee shop. The large airy high-ceilinged room has been transformed into a comfortable South-of-the-border courtyard using lots of reclaimed woods, bright colors, faux doorways and planter boxes beneath a cerulean sky. Double electric fans spin lazily over the large central bar.
Their seasonal menu features dishes inspired by Latin flavors, ingredients and cooking styles using the freshest local ingredients. Selections include appetizers (Guacamole, Cotija Beet Salad), small plates (Chorizo and Mussels, Schnitzel Adobada) and entrées (Short Rib Tammarindo, Mango BBQ Chicken). I took a seat on a padded bar stool with a view of the semi-open kitchen. Alex the friendly tattooed third generation San Diegan bartender placed my order then invited me to enjoy the chips and salsa bar.
The full-service cantina is well stocked with a large selection of premium tequila (Sembra Valley Ancestral smoked $20), mezcal (El Jorgorio Mexican $20) and rum (Appleton 21 year old $18). I sipped a Mike’s Margarita ($5) made with blanco tequila, agave nectar and fresh lime juice. The simple concoction was not too sweet, not too tart and just right.
I sampled the varieties of salsa while waiting for my food. The Featured Salsa is slightly sweet with smokey roast chipotle, the Salsa Arbol is packed with garlic and a wallop of heat, the House Salsa is filled with fresh veggies (think gazpacho), and Alex’s favorite, Habanero, is not too hot and chockablock with peppery chili flavor.
Alex set the steamy plate of Shrimp and Chorizo Tacos ($12) before me. Mexican white prawns are rubbed with a blend of garlic, cayenne pepper and spicy cumin, pan seared, then served with mild chorizo, mixed shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, a heavenly tomatillo crema sauce and minced cilantro piled on a soft warm tortilla. Complex, well-balanced and delicious.
I cleansed my palate before digging in to the Banana Fish ($15) plate. Six tender albacore tuna medallions seared in banana butter are served atop a delicate perfectly cooked cilantro rice garnished with a squeeze of lime juice, toasted coconut, pickled red cabbage and crumbled banana chips. Pearls of tomatillo crema top the medallions. Add banana leaves to the presentation and you’re looking at one sexy plate, as delicious as it is lovely to behold.
Before paying my tab and pushing away from the bar, Alex tempted me with dessert, but I simply did not have room. “No problem. Next time,” he said and slid a gift card my way.
Tamarindo is part of the San Diego based Moose Restaurant Group with casual dining locations in Hawaii and California including Fred’s in Old Town. The festive laid back eatery is open seven days a week with a daily happy hour and Sunday Brunch, too. Eat this, hungry readers. You’ll be glad you did.
2906 University Ave.
Open 7 days, hours vary
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