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Located where the old Viceroy (and more recently Duetto) was at Sun Hung Kai Centre in Wan Chai, Tamarind is split into two main dining rooms. The main dining room (with a supposed sprawling terrace and amazing views) was being used for a private event on the evening we visited, so we were relegated to the rather less impressive back dining room. Here the setting is not promising. Diners can choose to sit in pretty much complete darkness, or at a table with a glaring spotlight over their heads. The décor is simple, with cheap wooden tables and pleather seats. There are a couple of booths which looked more comfortable, as well as a small rooftop with four simple tables set up.
If we thought the décor didn’t bode well, we were even more alarmed by the size of the menu, which features Indian, Vietnamese and Thai dishes. As expected with such a huge menu, there were definitely hits and misses. Some of the hits include a Vietnamese spring roll. Although the oil that they were fried in was old, resulting in some very tanned rolls, the flavours were spot-on and the pastry crispy. Also crispy, if a little greasy, were the deep-fried spinach fritters with tamarind yoghurt from the Indian kitchen. We also liked the pomegranate seeds on top, which gave it some extra colour and sweetness. We had been told by an Indian friend that Tamarind’s tandoor offerings are worth a try, so we opt for the salmon tandoori, which was a tad overcooked but again, the flavours were fine. The highlight of the evening was recommended to us by the waitress. Tender pieces of beef brisket are deep-fried in an airy, almost tempura like batter, and served separately from a yellow lemongrass curry. We couldn’t get enough of this delicious Thai curry. Onto the disappointments: the Thai green papaya salad was sickly sweet, with not enough spice nor acidity to render it authentic. The Indian parathas were both greasy and burned while the baigan bharta featured way too much tomato and not nearly enough smoky eggplant. Perhaps most disappointing of all were the lack of desserts. We had been looking forward to some Thai mango sticky rice, but were informed that Tamarind only served two desserts, an Indian dumpling and an Indian ice cream made with herbs, neither of which were enthusiastically described by our waitress, so we gave it a pass.
Tamarind features a surprisingly extensive wine by the glass selection, with over 15 available. These span the globe, offering both wines from the new and old world. However, the wine list is not particularly imaginative, and one is more likely to find Wolf Blass than any boutique wineries here.
Although we visited Tamarind on a quiet Monday night, service was still below average. We were left waiting at the reception for a good three minutes before anyone came to find out what we wanted, and there were prolonged waits between dishes. The staff, although efficient, is not particularly full of smiles, and recommendations are given perfunctorily.
A very filling meal for two (although we could probably have fed three or even four people with the generous portion sizes) came to about HK$900. Perhaps if we had been seated in the main dining room with the views and the terrace, we would have felt this was worth it. Shafted in the back room however, this feels distinctly overpriced.