Restaurant Review-Tamari (Pittsburgh)
While I almost always enjoy a meal out, there are few places where I simply adored the meal. My birthday dinner at Tamari has now been added to the small, elite “adored” list. While my list of restaurants to try in Pittsburgh is pretty long, forever being added to, some I want to try sooner than others, Tamari being one of them. Tamari’s original location is in the city’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, but recently they opened a second location in Warrendale, a suburb north of the city that is actually near to our house. While I love venturing into the city, I figured that if it was the same restaurant, same menu, just different locations, I’d stick with the one closer to home, not to mention free parking.
Tamari is billed as Asian Latin fusion which might seem like an odd pairing, but not when your chef is from Hong Kong and your sous chef is from Argentina, as our waiter explained to us. Tamari’s menu is divided into tapas, robata grill selections (i.e. food on a stick), and a rather extensive offering of sushi. While D and I had had sushi before, we weren’t the biggest fans of it and I was simply too entranced by the tapas selections. Our waiter, an extremely nice and laid back gentleman, told us that some of the tapas could be considered “meal size” quantity, while others were more of an appetizer size (this is for the most part reflected in the price).
Although I was sorely tempted to go with a perennial favorite, a mojito (I am destined to visit Cuba one day), I actually ordered my first ever Pisco Sour. It is a grape brandy cocktail (Pisco is the name of the brandy) found in South American cuisine, primarily Peru and Chile which also fight as to who actually has ownership of it. The drink also contains lime (or lemon) juice, syrup, egg white, ice, and Angostura bitters. It was good, but perhaps best labeled an acquired taste. I was just thrilled to see it on a menu though. (Pisco Sour, $9).
As tapas are smaller plates, we generally ordered a couple at a time, as opposed to putting in our one big order all at once. We began with the Egg Roll ($6) and the Empanadas ($7). The egg roll featured shoulder tenderloin, green curry, frisee, sambal (a chili based sauce), vinaigrette, napa and black beans. Our waiter advised us that the egg roll would be spicy and yet it seemed to be more the green curry as the filling itself was perfectly mild. The empanada was delicious, almost as worthy as the ones I had eaten when I visited Argentina. It consisted of lemongrass chicken, pico de gallo and sambal. The crust was incredibly light and you could definitely taste the egg yolk that had been used to give it its golden color when baking. Although both were excellent, I would probably say my favorite of the two was the empanada.
For round two, we decided on the Lobster Mac and Cheese ($14) and the Bulgogi ($10). The mac and cheese was good although I wasn’t quite sure how it fit into the Asian Latin fusion scheme. It featured langostino, smoked Gouda, panko (Japanese style bread crumbs), and truffle oil. Thankfully for me, the Gouda was neither heavy nor rich side so I didn’t have to eat judiciously. The bulgogi was good although the meat a bit too rare for my taste. It consisted of shoulder tenderloin, Asian slaw, ginger polenta, and pico de gallo. Although it certainly didn’t taste anything like the bulgogi I had in Korea or even at Sushi Kim, my favorite Korean restaurant here in Pittsburgh, it was a neat variation.
To end the savory portion of our delicious meal, we ordered the Peking Duck Quesadilla ($9). It was a large size quesadilla although it had been cut into quarters. It came with serrano hoisin, smoked Gouda, scallion, and cucumber. My only critique was that it was way too heavy on the Gouda which detracted somewhat from the unique taste of the duck.
As it was my birthday I made sure to leave room for dessert. Selections included an apple empanada (we would have gotten this had we not ordered the empanada with our meal), a chocolate cake which was described as having jalapeno peppers baked into the crust, a lemon cake, and lastly, churros (fried pieces of dough doused in cinnamon and sugar) which is what we ordered. The churros came with peanut butter mousse (utterly delectable) and a raspberry sauce.
I certainly look forward to returning to Tamari sometime again in the near future especially since tapas and drinks are half off during happy hour, Monday to Friday, 5-7 PM. For starters, I have my eye on the seared scallops, the enchiladas, and the beef tongue tacos.