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kiliki

Tamarind Tree

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Anyone else eaten here? The recent P-I review got me really excited about the place, despite the negative remarks, since I love Vietnamese but wasn't in love with any of Seattle's Vietnamese restaurants (yes, there are some good ones, but none with the ideal combination of good prices, quality, and atmosphere).

The food was terrific. Our group had beef short ribs, fresh prawn spring rolls, pork spring rolls, "special steamed roll" (ground marinated pork and mushrooms in a rice paper wrapper, served with bean sprouts, prawns, grilled pork, herbs and fish dipping sauce), green beans with tofu, grilled prawn vermacelli noodle bowl, and vegetable rice noodle soup, and all were great (I didn't know how I was supposed to eat the special steamed rolls, however). The limeade type drinks were also delicious. The space is comfortable, nicely decorated with a neat fireplace. Prices are incredibly cheap.

Service was ABYSMAL. The five of us had to pass around one menu because that is all they had (even though we didn't see many other tables with menus). One entree came before the appetizers. About 20 minutes elapsed between the delivery of the first entree and the last-they all came at 5 minute intervals (can anyone explain this? At thai restaurants I've also experienced this staggared arrival-how can anyone think it's appropriate?). Water was requested but never came. Lime drinks took about 15 minutes. Once the food was delivered no one ever came back to our table. We would have liked dessert but no one asked, and it was such an ordeal to get the check we thought we should take the opportunity to pay and leave while we were still young.

But, the food was so good, and such a great deal, I will go back and hope that service improves.


Edited by kiliki (log)

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We went late yesterday afternoon and had great food and our service was fine (however, they weren't very busy at 4:00 in the afternoon). The decor was quite nice, warm and modern and a real step up from the hole-in-the-wall places we usually frequent in the area (not that there's anything wrong with hole-in-the-walls. :smile: ) They also offer a selection of mixed drinks featuring tamarind, lemon grass and lime juices in interesting combinations that would be fun to try.

We decided to have the 7-courses beef meal as I've always wanted to try this and SeaGuy was game. Our food came out in slightly different order than what was listed on the menu, but not in any problematic way.

We started off with a cold beef salad that had cabbage, carrots, peanuts and variouse herbs in it and came with nuoc cham (the dipping sauce made with fish sauce, lemon or lime, shredded carrots, and sugar).

Next came a vinegar based hot pot with slices of raw beef and onion, accompanied by a huge tray of herbs, lettuce, sprouts, rice noodles and pickled carrots along with rice paper for rolling. Swishing the raw beef briefly in the hot liquid and then making little rolls with the condiments made for a very tasty treat. This was accompanied by a dipping sauce that was similar to the peanut/bean sauce-type sauce that usually comes with salad rolls, but it was more piquant with what I think was anchovy sauce and maybe ginger. This was my favorite course and I wish there'd been a little more of it....not that there wasn't plenty of food.

Following this, a tray different sausage-like grilled beef rolls. We didn't realize until near the end that there were at least 2 and maybe 3 types of these--hence, I think 3 of the courses came on one platter. They were all very good, but next time I will keep the menu with me and ask more questions about what is what. These were also eaten with the rice papers, herbs and condiments.

Then came a little bowl with a large meatball surrounded by puffy rice crackers. It had numerous ingredients mixed in--I think some mushrooms and things. It was really good, but, again, I should have found out more about it.

The last course was a soup made of hambuger and rice--sort of like a brothier congee, that tasted way better than it sounds. It was very savory and a nice ending to the meal.

We followed this up with traditional vietnamese-style iced coffees with condensed milk. I felt the prices were very reasonable. The 7-course beef meal was 16.95 for two and with 2 beers and 2 coffees, the meal came to a total of just under 30.00 including tax. It was plenty of food, but we weren't over-stuffed.

I've noticed that in Vietnamese restaurants, the check is often not brought to the table. My husband ended up going to the cash register and paying there, not sure if that was a service gaffe, or just the way they do things.

I'd like to go back and try some other things on the menu. This might be a fun place for an eGullet group to go sometime.

Jan

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We ended up paying at the register, too, after finally getting the bill, since no one ever came to take the credit card. We hadn't seen anyone else do it and the woman up there apologized, so I guess the servers are supposed to take care of that.

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Yes, been there a few times. The food is very good but the service is very spotty--particularly since many of the staff don't speak English, which is kind of odd given the overall polish of the decor. If you can catch the owner, he's helpful. (He also is the first person I've seen with a handheld computer which talks straight to the computer system. The regular waiters use a regular terminal.)

Spotty service sometimes includes getting something other than what you order.

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Great food, a fascinatingly varied menu, ridiculously low prices, and fine service in my one visit. But even if the service were as haphazard as some report, it wouldn't keep me away from this gem.

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We had our first meal there today at lunch. We love this place, and will be back many times. The food was gorgeous and delicious, the service was impeccable, gracious, friendly and helpful. The space is very nice, the bathrooms are spotless and interesting, and the fireplace is where to sit. And it's cheap beyond belief, for what you get. Our tab was $27, and we brought home enough to make a really nice dinner with the leftovers.

Try the Grilled Beef in La Lot Leaf appetizer. It's the best of its sort that I've ever had. I also highly recommend getting the Bun Dac Biet. It's a version of the rice noodle bowl with several things on it, except that you can order it on a platter instead of a bowl. In fact, our server encouraged us to do this, and gave other helpful advice about the menu as well.

What we got was a platter with a pile of grilled pork, beef, chicken, and shrimp (my favorote, a whole large shrimp grilled with head and tail on, so you eat the whole thing), as well as yummy sugarcane shrimp, then a pile of rice noodles, pickled carrots, a mountain of Thai basil, mint, and cilantro, a pile of rice paper wrappers, and a bowl of warm water. You dip the rice paper, spread it on your dish, fill it with whatever you please, and then look silly trying to roll it all up neatly. It was really wonderful.

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I've been back a number of times and service has definitely improved. It's still hard to get a glass of water, and the practice of bringing entrees at separate times drives me nuts, (though I know that this isn't unheard of at Asian restaurants). But I would go for their fresh spring rolls alone (so many places make these badly!), never mind the fact that almost everything else is delicious, too.

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Glad to report that we finally made it to Tamarind Tree, and really enjoyed it a lot. Their grilled items really stand out becasue they are so flavorful and tender. And I love that you get to soak your own rice paper wrapper for the platters. Though mine are nowhere near as neat and artful as the ones I saw being served as appetizers. They had two lying down, and two standing up with a bunch of dark green leafy lettuce sprouting from one end like a tree.

It is so cool to go to a restaurant where you can play with your food. And the market next door has lots of prepared foods for take out--there were many items wrapped in banana leaf, pickled goodies, and various stuffed buns when I looked, but I was too full to try any.

The presentation and decor at TT are several steps up from the hole-in-the-wall style of Vietnamese that I'm more familiar with, plus they have a full bar where they make lots of fusion cocktails. Prices are great--they bump up slightly for dinner. We will definitely be back. Thanks for the tip.

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Al and I finally made it to Tamarind Tree yesterday for lunch. What a fantastic place. Service was very good. Had the Beef 7 ways, previously reviewed, and a starter of Spring Roll, Tamarind style. This was outstanding and absolutely beautiful.

They are in the process of adding a patio, to the left of the front door, for outside dining and cocktails. It is scheduled to open in late May.

We definitely plan on returning for lunch again. Our tab was $22. before tip. An unbelievable amount of really good food for such a reasonable price.

Kay

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Tamarind Tree is mentioned in this months Food&Wine

They got a plug in the New York Times recently as well. And I haven't been yet because....?

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Because you save the best for last?

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I've had 2 meals there, and both were great, with good service, including being able to move to a better table when it became free. I would love to go again soon if anyone is up for it.

BTW, when I asked, our waiter said they source some of their herbs ingredients from Min grocery, located behind them. When I went there afterwards, I found them very nice and helpful, in a small store kind of way.

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i love this restaurant! i've taken all my visitors from nyc there. the staff work reallly hard, it's always really busy & understaffed, but they're sweet and accomodating.

they give great recommendations on the menu. i love the shrimp turmeric rice cakes.

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I think I could eat here every day and not get sick of it. My dream is that they open another one in the north end so I can have the special steamed roll and the fresh prawn spring rolls anytime I want, not just on weekends when the drive from Phinney Ridge to the ID is bearable.

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how is it that I've not been here yet?! This needs to be fixed!

for anyone wondering.. they are here:

1036A S Jackson St - (206) 328-2245

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And when you go - drive into the parking lot and go to the back - the sign is not easy to see from Jackson.

I went and had the typical TT experience - they lost the order for half an hour. But the food was quite good - light and fresh - and very reasonably priced - $25 for two, and we were quite full. The masses were waiting to be seated when we left around 8:00 p.m.

Oh, they also have some outdoor seating with a wall of water feature falling to mask the traffic noise.

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Last night I had my first perfect experience there. We scored a great table on the waterfall patio, had fabulous service (we got someone new who very obviously is a "pro" waitress), got water as soon as we sat down, and all of our food and drinks came promptly and in the correct order!!! We even got our entrees at the exact same time.

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I am on vacation this week (yippee) so to celebrate we went to the Tamarind Tree tonight - first timers.

Finding The Place: Even though it is a mere 6 miles from our house in Seward Park, I was glad my beloved used his Philadelphia cab driving skills to locate the place - I never would have found it. It is advertised to be "on" Jackson but it is set a,ways back from Jackson at the edge of parking lot mentioned in another post. We arrived at the Tamarind Tree at about 7:30 pm and was told we had about a 20 minute wait/ No problem, that gave us time to wander into the Minh Tam Market next door. What a fabulous experience! It was completely amazing to go up one crowded aisle and down the next and see who could find the most inexplicable ingredient. The best aisle was the butcher case...I won't spoil the surprises by going into details here. We left with a tin of Green Tea and 3 green limes to make mojitos later this week (more vacation decadence).

Once seated at a table (some would have disliked the location but I loved it because it was situated directly in front of the kitchen "order up" window) we waited a little overly long before we received menus and tea (no water, had to ask for that later). We started with the Tamarind Tree spring rolls, and they proved to be the best item of the three dishes we ordered that night. The flavors and textures were simultaneously sweet, salty, fresh, crunchy and tender. Even though we have had plenty of spring rolls, this dish was unlike anything either of us had ever eaten. Delicious, wonderful, and I am certain there are other dishes of this caliber coming from the kitchen - I saw so many come up in the window I wanted to follow them all to their destination!

After the appetizer, we shared a platter of grilled eggplant. I happen to love eggplant, and while I likely would not likely order this dish a second time (too many other interesting possiblities to eat the same thing twice), I was amazed by how soft and sexy and delicious they were able to render this dish. They split two or three eggplants down the middle, grilled them (and perhaps steamed them?) until silken soft, sprinkled them with chopped nuts and mint and green onion and then served the eggplant with fish sauce. Delicious again.

Then we had one of the platters described in a previous post - lots of basil and mint and lettuce, vermicelli noodles, matchstick carrots and some grilled pork, an eggroll, sugarcane shrimp, and a grilled heads and tails on prawn. All served with dunk 'em yourself wrappers - good thing I had some previous experience or I would have been stumped! Delicious, but again, I would not order this dish twice.

I left regretting we had no room for dessert - I would have wanted the toasted coconut homemade ice cream or the white chocolate ginger mousse. I also would love to know if anyone has ordered the Escargot Meatball Noodle Soup - I mean really, when's the last time you saw that on a menu?

We will be back, with more people than just the two of us. I think we owe it to ourselves to make it through the entire menu, somehow, and to get through that menu we are going to need a Little Help from Our Friends. This is the kind of place that were I younger, I would have begged for a waitstaff job just so I could experience the food more thoroughly....but as a somewhat mature adult, I will have to satisfy myself with frequent visits before baseball games!

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I tried Tamarind Tree for the first time about three months ago and loved it. The service was outstanding. I went back a few weeks ago for the 7-courses of beef and had a waitress in training. The service was awful! But I can't say that it would stop me from coming back--I'd just make sure to go when I'm not in a hurry.

I did a review (with pics) on Seattlest:

http://www.seattlest.com/archives/2005/05/...marind_tree.php

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