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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tamarind: Going Thai at SM The Block Food Circuit

Over the past few months, I don't feel too bad being a northie anymore. Shopping and weekend date sessions at SM North EDSA don't seem too uninspiring no more. And these are all thanks to the new Food Circuit at SM The Block.

When I get asked where I want to eat after spending hours in the mall, I don't reply with, "Meh, anywhere" anymore. Now, I'm usually more than excited to head straight to The Food Circuit to see what else I haven't tried yet.

Tamarind Tase of Thai SM The Block

And after a long streak of dining at Casa Italia, Amici, Almon Marina, Nadai Fujisoba and Osaka Ohsho, I'm so happy to have found that a Thai resto had opened.

Tamarind SM North The Block
Tamarind SM North EDSA The Block

From what I've read, Tamarind Taste of Issan Thai is from the same people behind Jatujak Thai Resto. But apart from obviously looking and feeling fancier than their other Thai concept, Tamarind offers cuisine from the Northeaster Thai Region, aka Issan.

Of course, Tamarind can't do away without offering Thai favorites like pad thai, tom yum and curries. But I believe the menu offers a good selection of the Issan flavors -- fiery, intense, pungent and simple with minimal cookery. It's where even a small parcel of food can manage to give off big, bold flavors enough to go with a large amount of rice.

The Meal Starters


As of this writing, the boyf and I have been to Tamarind twice. We still plan on coming back as often as we can to sample other dishes. But for now, let me share with you some of the items we got to try.

Poh Pia Sod (Fresh Vegetable Spring Roll) (P175)
✓ Poh Pia Sod (P175)
Fresh vegetable spring roll

For a light-on-the-taste-buds-but-not-for-the-tummy appetizer, we thought to start off with a fresh spring roll dish. There's a choice for something with minced pork, but we opted for the vegetarian version. The serving came with eight short but big (for one bite) rice paper rolls filled with lettuce, carrots, jicama, garlic, cilantro, tofu and peanuts, with a sweet chili dipping sauce.

Som Tam with Chicken Skin (P260)
Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)
Som Tam with Chicken Skin (P260)
Green papaya salad

As a green papaya salad lover, I just can't miss ordering my favorite Thai salad. Unlike the usual green papaya salads I have at other Thai restaurants though, I felt Tamarind's version is more intense in the flavor department. It's not as sweet as I would've wanted, but it's really tangy with a bit of a spicy kick. I'm still on the fence if I prefer my som tam this pungent, but we'll see on my next visits.

Grill, Noodles & Rice


For mains, I personally would want to order curry. But since I'm a very understanding partner, I let the boyf choose his preferred main dishes since he's not too enthusiastic about curry. Next time, I'll let him warm up to it though. v(*’-^*)-☆

Kar Moo Yang (Grilled Pork Neck) (P320)
Kar Moo Yang (P320)
Grilled pork neck with garlic cilantro

For our mains, we ordered this sweet, savory, tender and succulent caramelized grilled pork neck dish. I've always loved pork jowls, as it's silky, meaty and fatty. We paired every spoonful of this pork item with the other dishes -- papaya salad and pad thai for me, and bagoong rice for the boyf, and I'd say, it pairs really well with almost anything. If I were a beer drinker, I think this can be a good dish for beer sessions too!

Pad Thai (P250 Prawns; P230 Chicken)
Pad Thai when mixed
✓ Pad Thai (P250 Prawns; P230 Chicken)
Stir-fried rice noodles in sweet-sour tamarind sauce

When it comes to Thai food, the carb-lover in me just can't say no to pad thai! Although I've had not-so-outstanding pad thais before, I don't think I've ever had one that I truly detest. I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to this Thai favorite. As long as the noodles are cooked to a springy texture and there's a good blend of sweet, savory and tangy with decent amount of tamarind, lemon juice, fish sauce, eggs, beansprouts, peanuts and shrimps or chicken, I'm all good!

Pad Siew (P230 Chicken; P230 Pork; P250 Seafood)
Pad Siew (P230 Chicken; P230 Pork; P250 Seafood)
Stir-fried thick noodles with kailan leaves

On another trip, I decided to try a different noodle dish instead of the pad thai. And I'd say, if you love flavorful noodles, then this is for you! It's more savory and salty (in a good way) than how I usually like my food, so it was a little too much for me (nothing a squeeze of lime can't fix though). However, the boyf loved it! He's a sucker for hearty and bold flavors (and lots of garlic), so this fits right up his alley.

Kao Kluk Kapi (Bagoong Rice) (P220)
✓ Kao Kluk Kapi (P220)
Bagoong rice

The boyf and I are actually simpletons, so we really enjoyed carb-loading with Tamarind's bagoong rice. Served with sweet pork, strips of eggs, green mangoes, shallots and fried garlic, this is already a meal in itself! Personally, I like squeezing in some lime juice and adding some chili when I mix in my bagoong rice for more explosive flavors, but it's already pretty good as it is.

I do have to note though that we preferred our bagoong rice more during our first visit. The pork that the dish came with was cooked a little burnt and tasted saltier, which really fit the Issan concept better. During our second trip, the pork was cooker softer, paler and was more sweet than salty. Maybe next time we should request to have the pork cooked longer and a bit saltier. (。•̀ᴗ-)✧

Dessert and Drinks


Kanom Takoh (P125)
Kanom Takoh (P125)
Tapioca pudding in pandan cups

Sooo... I thought this was takoh sako as it seems quite similar based on the description. I'm not sure if they were supposed to be similar in the first place, but it was a shame how the pudding was sweet for both our (even the boyf) liking. It was also a little too liquidy, which I'm not exactly sure if it's the texture Tamarind was going for.

Thai Cha Nom (Thai Milk Tea) (P110)
✓ Thai Cha Nom (P110)
Thai milk tea

Of course, I wouldn't eat at a Thai restaurant without getting a Thai milk tea! Unlike Taiwanese milk teas, Thai milk teas are spiced with star anise and ground tamarind seeds in a strong brew of black tea. It's usually sweetened with milk and syrup, or condensed milk, though I'm not sure which method Tamarind uses (maybe the latter as I get light notes of condensed milk?). Anyhow, every sip sure reminded me when I've first fallen for Thai cuisine. And just to add, I let the ice on my Thai milk tea melt and added some water during my visit, to dilute the sweetness a bit. Maybe next time I'll just request not to sweeten my milk tea that much. o(≧∇≦o)

THE VERDICT

I don't know about Tamarind's reputation among hardcore Thai food lovers and connoisseurs, but I sure am in love with their offerings. Apart from serving flavorful items, I'm actually surprised at their hefty portion sizes. Most of their dishes are already good for 2 to 3 people, and even up to 4 for lighter eaters! Between our two visits, we were left with extra food to take home -- and we were famished when we went in the restaurant on both occasions, mind you!

What I'm excited to see improve on though is the service. I believe Tamarind is still under soft opening at the moment, and there have been slight hiccups on service during both our visits (but mostly on our second trip). Nothing major, but it would be nice if it'd be easier to call the staff's attention.

Taste 4/5
Ambiance - 4/5
Service - 4/5
Price - 4/5
Overall Value - 4/5


Tamarind Taste, SM North EDSA The Block
GF (Hypermarket level) The Block, SM North EDSA,
Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
(02) 921-1674
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