Fianlly went to Tamal last night after seeing the blurb on it in the Chron about a month and having my sherpa in cuisine go every wkend since he first tried it.
First off... the orange walls are a bit bright... especially with the lighting... the lights can be dimmed a bit to give it a more *expensive* look IMHO.
The service was great right off the bat. The co-owner offered us a mango-pomegranate sangria. We ordered a pitcher without a second of hesitation. So yummy!
She chatted us about what we like to eat and offered great guidance through their rather extensive menu offerings. The daily special of paella negro with squid and squid ink sounded amazing, but alas my friend doesn't like squid (sigh!). We ordered, upon the co-owner's suggestion the following:
- Tamal de Pato (muscovy duck confit and port soaked cranberries, wrapped in saffron and achiote-flavored masa with balsamic pear mojo sauce), $7
- Tacos de atun (cripsy tacos with seared cumin seed and crushed pepper-encrusted rare ahi tuna with spicy horseradish celeric-root slaw, tomatillo salsa verde, and spicy jicama sticks), $10.50
- Creole crab cakes (fresh crab cakes with chipotle crema served on a bed of baby mizuna with blood orange vinaigrette and fire roasted succotash), $7
- Borchetas de Cordero (grilled skewers of boneless lamb tenderloins rubbed with Scharffen Berger coco, Mexican canella and Fair Trade Volcano Blend coffee, served with cumin-roasted Yukon gold potatoes, tostones, and a jalapeno mint mojo, $11
It was all delectable. The tamal had wonderful masa. The duck was a bit on the dry side, but had great flavour. The tacos... we could not get enough of. It was like eating maguro in a taco shell. The quality of the tuna and its essence was the shining through. The crab cakes were rich in flavour without being dense. They were probably the fluffiest crab cakes I've ever had. I'm inclined to think better than Cortez's. The lamb was pure joy. It was savory and yet had the richness and slight sweet depth of rich chocolate. We stopped talking and enjoyed every juicy morsel of the meat in utter respectful silence. The potatoes in the dish could have been cooked a little longer but the tostones were so cute.
Overall, we decided we had to come back again v. soon to sample other dishes. Our total bill came to $70 for the two of us (including tax, a generous tip, food, and the pitcher of sangria). Very reasonable. The chef and the drink specialist both came by to chat with us a bit too.
This food is interesting, intensely flavouful, yet light. I went away feeling completely satisfied but not weighted down and dreaming of my return visit.