Inside Tamak, Santacruz | All The Deets
For a while now, I have been struggling with selecting Indian food restaurants to eat at. For some reason, the ball swings between ‘too fancy to fill me up’ and ‘this tikka masala is going to give me acidity tomorrow’. Whether it’s late night butter chicken takeout, or a Diwali dinner with the family, Indian food hasn’t been exciting me lately. Enter, Tamak.
Before I went to Tamak, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I heard people rave about it, the menu looked interesting, but I couldn’t predict what the vibe of the eatery would be. Currently, they are open for dinner every day, and lunch only on the weekends. I dropped by for lunch on a Saturday afternoon, and was very surprised by the setting. It’s a small outdoor space with a makeshift roof with air conditioners. It’s unbelievably casual, and I loved that about it. It was so refreshing to see such a casual and hip Indian food eatery, all decked up with splashes of sunflower yellow and ocean blue.
Tamak has a menu that’s on the quirkier side with a lot of fresh takes on classic dishes. The burning October heat led me to ordering a fresh glass of sugarcane juice, and masala chaas for my companion to begin, and we were presented with a surprise amuse bouche: a piece of mathri topped with a small dollop of aachar! This Indian substitute for a foreign concept was so amusing, it left my tongue tingling and waiting to start eating.
The first starter of the hour was one of their hottest selling kulchas made with truffle essence, mushroom, cheese, parmesan, chives and sea salt. Many strong flavours fought for attention in each bite, and this kulcha is best eaten fast when it’s hot, for it can get tough if left to cool off.
Next, we had the Lucknowi Tokri Chaat. I’m a big fan of any kind of chaat, and I’m also that person who eats the chaat items in a huge buffet with many, many other (apparently better) things. For the Lucknowi Tokri Chaat, we got two big potato baskets in one portion. The fried potato bowls were filled with crushed wadas, sprouts, nuts, yoghurt and imli ki chutney, garnished with pomegranate seeds. It had all the flavours of a typical chaat dish: the sweet yogurt, the wada, the chutney. The basket stayed crispy for a really long time and did not soften because of the yoghurt. The nuts and pomegranate added other kinds of crunchiness to this dish. Don’t miss this one if you love chaat!
Because my companion was vegetarian, I shamelessly devoured a full portion of the Fish Amritsari. A fillet of basa was steamed in banana leaves, cooked in a wonderful chutney that was heavy on the mustard. The fish was cooked atop a bed of onions and radish, so eating the soft fish with the veggies was such a great combination. I had never eaten fish like that before!
For our mains, my companion went with a simple Amritasri Chhole Kulche (how wrong can anyone go with that?!). The buttery aloo kulche were great to eat on their own, too: the mark of a truly good kulcha! The chhole were tangy and spicy, and even though my mouth was on fire, I couldn’t stop eating. It hurt so good!
The only part of my meal I was disappointed by was the Delhi Chicken Biryani. It came to our table in a plastic bag that it was cooked in. The Chef explained that it was food-grade plastic, and there was different method of cooking the biryani, but I just found myself feeling unable to eat something that was cooked and presented to me in a plastic bag. Do we really need to use that method in 2018 when every piece of plastic contributes to an environmental apocalypse? Moreover, the rice and chicken were both bland, and didn’t carry any bold flavours that I hoped would salvage the dish.
The desserts were the best part of our meal and I’m craving them even now. I usually find that Indian desserts don’t do well in restaurants, they’re better found at old mithai walas, but Tamak changed my opinion! First, we shared the Mirchi Ka Halwa, which was a halwa made from capsicum. We really wanted to know what that would taste like, and how the capsicum flavour would play out. It was so heavy on sugar and ghee, we couldn’t taste the capsicum at all. You could have told me it was any other kind of halwa coloured green and I would have believed you.
However, I couldn’t stop myself from having the Jalebi Rabri. This was a gorgeous bowl of thick, creamy rabri with thin and crispy jalebis (the best kind!). On Chef’s insistence, we also shared a scoop of his paan ice cream. Simply put, it was divine. It didn’t feel like any artificial paan flavour had been added to ice cream. This felt like a paan had somehow, literally been turned into this creamy, complex goodness! The last dessert we tried was an off-the-menu item, a Jamun Ice Lolly. I’m not even exaggerating, but it was like an actual jamun fruit had been shaped into an ice lolly and then frozen. The flavour and texture was so real, our minds were blown!
To wrap it up, I will be going back to Tamak for most of the food, and especially the desserts. Their pricing is very pocket-friendly for some innovative and delicious dishes. The thing I love most about the place is the casual vibe of it which I don’t find with Indian food restaurants. This is just the kind of ‘something different’ that you’ve been searching for!