A ‘Riceless Moment’ At Tamarind Continental Cuisine by Sasha Lee

Lemonade in the summertime is like carb choices to a foodie: more, please! Four articles in and I realize I’ve been fortunate for my many ’riceless moments’ these last few months. Continuing on the streak of crepes, tacos, and creamy pastas, I decided to check out the menu for my next bite beforehand, then found myself brainstorming (some call it daydreaming) during my favorite podcasts. When it came time to choose, it was already clear which carb option would cut it: naan. 

Indian cuisine is as renowned for its rice dishes (biryani, pulao, pulihora) as its flatbread variety (roti, naan, paratha; over 30 types in total). As far as carbs go, nothing beats a piece of freshly baked flatbread for scooping up every last bit of a thick, buttery sauce/gravy (yes, this is important). The flaky morsels are prepared in a number of ways, baked to light perfection in a traditional tandoor (curved clay pot oven), or finished off in a Tava (a flat, disc-shaped frying pan).

Naan is among the more popular Indian flatbreads; soft, fluffy and baked, thankfully, for all the eager weight watchers. Located in the bustling Barbican Road environs of Kingston, Tamarind Continental Cuisine boasts nine types of naan (bet you can’t say that five times fast) on its Asian-fusion menu. Among their many, many, mouth-watering entrees, you’ll find chicken tikka with spicy masala, Thai green, curry and chickpea-battered salmon fillet. 

Owned by husband & wife team Vivek & Puja Chatani, Tamarind Continental is the most eclectic of their trio of eateries, which includes Saffron at Marketplace and Tamarind Indian Cuisine. Their mission? To cater to exploratory palates with healthy options. With a few solid years of growing support, it seems ‘continental’ – the delicacies native to European countries – is a winning niche. 

The menu offerings are a medley of European, Southeast Asian and traditional Indian dishes curated from nearly two years of Vivek’s keen research. Tamarind Continental celebrated its five year anniversary back in March, and despite COVID-19 number crunching, they remain steadfast in their bid to leave an indelible stamp on the food scene.

  Photo Cred: The Gleaner

The ambience alone at Tamarind Continental would land them in any foodie’s hall of fame, with a cozy-ified cafe space equal parts inviting and intriguing. The yellow brick wall is a cool nod to classic Hollywood that truly leads to happiness — the kitchen, of course. The most striking bit however would have to be the Audrey Hepburn wall decal, allegedly shipped from Italy, and stylishly accentuated (like the fair lady herself) with red leather swan chairs. 

Knowledgeable wait staff is on hand to help clarify the vast options from both menus (Tamarind Indian is actually close by). If you’ve been craving naan’s chewy goodness for weeks however, and are ready to dig in immediately after being sanitized, they can handle that too. 

I should say now that there was but one damper on the day. The Tamarind Continental tiramisu I’d psyched myself up for (post birthday splurge) wasn’t available on the day I dined. Fun Fact: Did you know that tiramisu (tirami su in Italian) literally means “cheer me up”? Crazy, right? 

And then, like a silver knight, Asian fusion charged  to the rescue. Enter Malai Tikka (chicken breast marinated in yoghurt, cashew nut paste & cheese), Butter Naan, Garlic Naan, Cauliflower Stuffed Paratha and Samosas. Hands down one of my favorite meals so far; what the eatery does with the simplest ingredients was totally worth the trip. 

Malai Tikka is now my new standard; it’s just how chicken is supposed to taste: tender, double marinated, deeply flavorful. The Butter/ Garlic Naan I’d been after was satisfying too, crisp and pungent with flavors that bloomed with each mango chutney soaked bite. The last minute paratha selection was softer, more dense, and still absolutely great for mopping up mint sauce. Samosas are also a personal fave; can’t go wrong with a spicy pocket that goes from crispy to creamy in one bite.

Generous portions, attentive service (thank you Lamisha!) and a genuine palate pleaser, I’d rate Tamarind Continental at 8.5/10, (even though ironically, the tamarind sauce didn’t sit well with me (go figure). Next time you’re in the mood to skip the rice, consider a mini crash course in the various hearty Indian breads.

As another COVID19 summer rolls around, it’s like the world needs a refresher on the season’s experiences: outdoors, dancefloors, connections. Hazy days, lazy nights. From hours-long trips to smiling faces to romantic rendezvous. ummer once meant ‘rest & reset’ on some level, until the universe began demanding it of us every day.

For me, the two tracks below sum up the wellspring of breezy, engaging energy that is summertime. And while we’re on the topic of fusion, one is a dancehall/trap jazz mashup, the other a soul/ hip hop blend, each with male/female perspectives. 

Make the Most is a puppy love chronicle that plays like a duet rehash of Amerie’s all-time summer anthem Why Don’t We Fall In Love. Silver Tongue Devil leans more towards the lusty side of life, but with some very cheeky lines and Masego’s saxophone licks, the desire for closeness is no less urgent. Both tracks are conversational, bright and groovy, hotlines to the chill vibes of summers gone by.

More on Sasha’s work:

The Last Bite: ‘Quarantea’ @ Tea Tree Crêperie (Issue 6)

Good Food Equals Good Mood At Tables Turn Restaurant (Issue 7)

Julie Mango: A Recipe For Good Feels (Issue 8)

Sasha Lee is a Jamaican writer who has too many interests, and credits in both journalism and fiction. Her work has appeared in DancehallMag.com, Ellipsis Zine, Sublunary Review and LEON Literary Review, among others. Among her creative endeavors is a monthly column entitled “The Last Bite” – where she shares a slice of paradise in food and music reviews – for MixedMag.co. She can be found on Twitter @ohsashalee.

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