Last night was another fine evening in Restaurant Week, which served as the perfect excuse to go and try out yet another place we’ve been meaning to visit for dinner.
We were looking specifically for something in Lawrenceville, which is our featured food area for the year. (In fact, we’re looking to review a total of ten restaurants in the 15201, so if you have any favorites to recommend, shoot them our way in the comments!) Scanning the list of restaurants, we spotted Tamari’s $30.14 dinner special and knew that it had to be.
You see, we’d actually been to Tamari once before, during last summer’s first annual Pittsburgh Cocktail Week (no relation). However, our sustenance came strictly in liquid form on that fuzzy afternoon, and we never got to sample any of their tasty Asian-Latin fusion dishes. We’ve been meaning to come back ever since.
We got reservations for 5:15, and it was good that we did; even that early the crowd was already at a good size, with many people gathered to watch the chefs do their thing in the open kitchen area. Picking up where we left off in August, we began with a round of cocktails.
Fox ordered a Last Word, while I picked a specialty drink from the menu: the Honey Smoked, which is made with Ilegal mezcal (which you know I love if you’ve read our Verde tequila series from last year), Barenjager, lemon, mint, orange flower water, and lavender bitters. I’ll tell you what — that beverage was just about the best three ounces you can get outside of Colorado.
After sipping on our drinks for a little while, we began to order some food. Now, Tamari’s special for Restaurant Week looked spectacular to us. However, so did the rest of the menu. So we opted to skip the special and order a whole bunch of things to share, dim sum style.
The first thing to arrive at our table was the kale & brussels. Accompanied by lemongrass, bacon, pinto beans, manchego, and truffle oil, these greens were a great starter — the Brussels sprouts were luscious, with the grit of the beans providing a nice counter-texture, and the bacon added a pleasant sweet accent.
Following hot on the heels of our greens was the mushroom sauté (shiitake, hon shimeji, quinoa, watercress, mojo, chili oil). The mushrooms were tender without being chewy, and the mojo had a great, citrusy, “white wine” quality. Just delicious.
My absolute favorite of the three small plates, though, was our order of duck empanadas. Made with ground Peking duck, chipotle hoisin, and rayu cucumber, these empanadas were super-meaty. The meat was tender, but lacked that oily (and sometimes unpleasantly aromatic) quality that I’ve sometimes experienced in certain duck dishes. The crust had a delightful flakiness and the hoisin was nice and tangy.
After that trio of lip-smacking treats, we switched from cocktails to California Chardonnay (for Fox; I had a zippy Argentine torrontes). That was because…it was time for sushi!
We picked out three kinds of nicely rolled maki (left-to-right): the Angry Lobster (lobster tempura, kani, scallop, fried leeks, yuzu aioli), the spicy tuna, and the shrimp tempura.
All three had a good density and held together well both under pressure from our chopsticks and after being dipped in our soy sauce (though, honestly, they didn’t really need soy sauce anyhow). My only warning would be this: if you’re not alone, be sure you’re eating with someone you trust, because you will likely end up with a messy chin while eating these. Seriously, some of the bites get big.
As you might imagine, after our six selections, we were pretty well stuffed. As our meal ended, we vowed that we would be more disciplined than we had been at Grit & Grace at the start of the week, and steadfastly turn down any offers for dessert. But then, our server, Allaire, performed a feat of dark alchemy. She cast her spell with a single word…
And it was over. How much do I love churros, you might wonder? I’ll put it this way. Derek Zoolander has Blue Steel…
…and I have OMG CHURROS!
And these cinnamon cardamom churros? They were cinnamon cardamom masterpieces. The dough was a perfect consistency, with that slight surface crunch giving way to a soft, fluffy center. The peanut mousse and seasonal fruit compote that came with them added a nice twist as well. With a cup of black coffee to sip on the side, this was a splendid finish to a splendid meal.