I used to think that Slanted Door was the best chi chi Vietnamese food around, but I think Charles Phan sat on his laurels and got caught up in the hype. The food is still pretty good, but the price tag started to border on being unreasonable. Bong Su and Tamarine have replaced Slanted Door mostly because the prices seemed to be slightly more reasonable, but the food is much more flavorful. (Although as I take a look at the menu prices right now, it actually seems about as pricey as Slanted Door.) This trend of overpriced Vietnamese food is getting to be annoying, but at least Tamarine mitigates the offense a bit by serving very good food.
Tamarine was the original restaurant, and the sister restaurant, Bong Su, used to be located in San Francisco until it closed recently. Before I could even blog about it, the economy had taken its toll and forced Bong Su to close. So sad…. Anyways, the menus were essentially the same so at least we still have Tamarine. It’s just too bad it’s located in Palo Alto….
If you know me, you know how much I love calamari. Tamarine’s Salt and Pepper Calamari dish is definitely one of the best. Instead of the typical ringlets of squid, this dish has lightly battered squares of squid served with a cilantro-flavored dipping sauce. The Shaking Beef and Clay Pot Cod are both very delicious and filled with flavor. I normally need rice to balance out all the sauces. In this case, although white rice would be appropriate, I would highly suggest the Empress Rice as another “must-have”. The interesting part of Tamarine’s cuisine is I think they retain the essence of Vietnamese flavors but these flavors are enriched to appeal to Western palates who are normally used to the Thai style of cooking. It’s the right balance that is very well-executed. Although I really do like the food here, it will still be more of a “special occasion” place, because it’s still a little more than I would be willing to pay for Vietnamese food.
Price 2 ½ stars
Ambiance 3 ½ stars
Food 4 ½ stars
Overall rating 4 ½ stars