I am usually an SF dive diner but I went here Friday nite for a friend's birthday dinner, and...it was not only the most expensive meal that I've had in a while, it was the most value for the money!! This is my first posting here ever, so pls let me know gently if I've caused any faux pas. I am out of the loop as far as restaurant hype goes, but....though this place looks like it is pretty trendy right now, I would nod and say it's worth it.
Tamarine is on University Ave in downtown PA where the "old" Perry's used to be (old = <3 years?). It specializes in Vietnamese fusion food. I was a little scared of "fusion," being Asian myself, but if my friend (who's a "foodie") recommended this place, I figured it would serving something more original that potstickers with pesto sauce.
We sat in the back party room - the place was crowded and there was a definite din going on.
I don't have the menu in front of me, but the restaurant advocated eating "family style" with a combo of starters, salads, and "small entrees". Since there were about 16 of us, we took the liberty to order as much as we could off the menu.
We had the usual egg/spring rolls (? - the deep fried and the rice skin type), a delicious duck salad and a scallop salad, and then were served lemongrass bass, pork chops, steak, eggplant, and chicken dishes, along with two curries (shrimp and more scallop). The meats & fish were cooked just right - the bass was melting in my mouth "like buttah".
They also have a gimmick where you buy individual "infused" rice portions - rice servings wrapped in banana leaves and "infused" with various savory or sweet tastes (I ordered "Coconut"). This was not a major flavor distraction for me - I figured a "hook" is a "hook" to differentiate themselves from other fusion places.
For dessert we shared a lychee sorbet and some chocalate filled deep fried wontons with ice cream deal. Again, delicious.
Given the good quality of the food, I have to note some observations if they continue to recommend "family style" serving. 1) Make the serving plates LESS HEAVY - it got to be difficult to hold the platter and serve oneself due to the weight of the glazed earthenware, and 2) pre-cut the meat to sharable portions. Other than that, service was attentive
The total meal (with 3 glasses of wine - 1 Reisling, 1 red varietal) came out to $51-52. Again, a LOT more than my usual "maybe $10 this week" budget, but it was for a good friend, and I did not feel ripped off afterwards.
Finally, this is my first time writing, but I felt compelled to share this info with you. After suffering through dinners at PF Chang's or "Thaifoon" in Orange County (worth a whole other thread altogether), and after seeing PF Chang's now at the Stanford Mall, I'm hoping that diners CAN taste the difference between the food served at the above 3 establishments. (I don't hate PF Chang's, but I sit through in amazement as people pay so much for things that could be made for a lot less at a more chowhoundy establishment).
Now if only I could find a hole-in-the wall place in SF that serves Tamarine-style fish & meat dishes, with plain uninfused rice, I'd be all over that!!