Last Thursday, I had lunch at Tamarindo in downtown Oakland. I am not sure if I can recommend it to anyone as I need to return to give it another try.
The place looks great. The big windows and the bright colors, in contrast with the brick and tile surfaces and the wood tables create an inviting space.
The service was friendly and attentive, but needs some polish. My issue is with the food. I should state that we arrived at 1pm. I am not sure how many tables there were, but about 25% of them were empty.
We decided to split an Antojito (small plate) and then both order a torta. The first 4 antojitos we asked for were not available, so we ordered the Empanadas de camaron en el estilo de Nayarit ($6), two of the tortas Ahogada($5), which is described as carnitas, beans, half-drowned in a very spicy salsa chile de arbol on a baguette, and a tamarind agua fresca ($2.50).
The agua fresca was good. It did not appear to be made from concentrate and was not overly sweet, which is my usual complaint. A short time after bringing the agua fresca, our waiter brought our tortas and menus they were also out of the empanadas. So we ordered the tacos de camaron (6) two crispy tacos with sautéed prawns, rajas, jack cheese, romaine lettuce, guacamole and salsa fresca.
The presentation of the tortas was nice. They were covered with salsa and there was a tiny bowl of a different type of salsa, served separately but on the same plate.
Let me say from the start that the tortas tasted good. My main issue is that the menu description is not accurate. There were no beans and the salsa was not spicy at all not even a little bite. The carnitas, while flavorful, was lacking something. They were not cooked to the point of falling apart I know this because they were sliced, possibly by using a machine. The half-drowned on the menu meant that the non-spicy salsa was spooned over the sandwich which means that it had to be eaten with a knife and fork, which is ill conceived for a sandwich made on a baguette. The salsa served on the side may have been good but there was so little of it, at best 2 teaspoons and it appeared to be so complex that I really needed much more to get a sense of it.
The tacos arrived. They also tasted good, but were very small - about 3 bites each and they are gone. The description on the menu is accurate, but there was not more than a tablespoon of each ingredient listed on the menu between the two tacos. We had asked for the guacamole on the side, but it was served atop the tacos but because there was so little, it did not matter.
My partner finished with a double espresso ($2) which he said was good. Total without tip was $21.75.
My overall first impression is that Tamarindo is Mexican food with no soul. Maybe it is a healthy alternative and I have to admit that everything tasted fresh and had good flavors. However, I am not sure it would hold up to repeated visits, but I am going to give it another try.
Interestingly enough, the following day, one of my co-workers brought me a real torta from someplace in the Fruitvale. It was so big that I thought that I would not be able to eat it all. But it was so good that it soon disappeared. I was made on flat, round bread, filled with pieces of stewed chicken, covered with melted jack and queso fresco, chilies, and guacamole.
I am going to find where she bought it and report to you here.
Tamarindos web page: