Tamarind Tree was started by chef Ladislav Dvořák – he was previously a Chef de partie (line cook) at Prague’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel restaurant. The concept has always been Asian street food, offered at various Prague events and as a guest menu in some Prague restaurants.
I may have tasted Chef Dvořák’s food at a visit to Essensia (now called Spices) in the Mandarin – I remember every course, including the dim sum, was great. Americans call dim sum ‘potstickers’ – which is at least, an accurate description of their stickiness. However, I never tried Tamarind Tree’s output, mainly because I want to eat at a table, with plates and a glass of beer or wine – not stand against a fence eating by hand and drinking from a plastic cup.
So I was excited to see that the small restaurant space on Vyšehradská 1376/43 (previously occupied by ‘Richard’s Kitchen’) was to become Tamarind Tree. I checked the opening times and was disappointed to find that it was only open 09:30 to 15:00 Monday to Friday.
Then I discovered that they open on some Thursday evenings for a ‘dim sum’ night. Those of you who read my reviews of Sia and QQ Asian Kitchen will know how much I love dim sum. Tamarind Tree advised that they offered only two meal times; 6 – 8pm and 8 – 10pm – this seemed a bit restrictive and also counter productive as everyone would arrive and order at the same time. I booked the 8pm sitting.
We went inside and sure enough, everyone was arriving at the same time. This was made worse because everything had to be ordered and paid for in advance at the counter. So we were among a group of people standing around looking at chalk boards, deciding and lining up to order and pay.
We had a table reserved and I was just able to squeeze through the gap between our table and the next to get to my seat.
All of our food arrived at once within five minutes – we didn’t have to go and collect it. The two glasses of wine were a few minutes later than that. The dim sum (three pieces (duck 149 Kc three pieces pork & prawn 135 Kc) were contained in traditional steamer baskets, the five Japanese Takoyaki octopus balls were in a cardboard container. No plates were offered.
The red wine (1.5dcl 80Kc) was chilled like a cold beer – it was so disgusting that we worried we may fall ill by drinking it. We returned to the counter and swapped it for a beer and a lemonade – making the price for those 160Kc.
A 1l carafe of tap water was 25Kc and that’s reasonable enough.
The food was amazing! Sadly that isn’t enough. The prices are similar to those in Sia – a restaurant with a fortune spent on décor, full table service, great food, good wine and also china plates.
We revisited the counter and ordered more pork and prawn dim sum – this time we tried the spring rolls, also delicious, albeit triangle shaped.
I visited the toilets and realised that there were a bunch of empty tables in the back room – so I’m not sure why everyone was squashed in the front.
The majority of customers had left by 9pm – this a symptom of the lack of courses, fast food delivery all at once and nobody to ask “would you like another drink or pudding?”. But if that’s how the restaurant works, then why force people into the 6 and 8 meal times? I’m guessing that you could arrive at 7pm and find tables already empty from the 6pm group.
Tamarind Tree the restaurant is just their street food concept brought indoors without a restaurant experience – I don’t think they know how to run a restaurant. The food is fantastic, but it’s not enough to make me return without these changes:
- Open more evenings.
- Allow customers to book/arrive at any time.
- Space out the tables.
- Offer table service with a single bill at the end of the meal.
- China plates.
- Ask when and what order the menu items should be delivered – maybe a degustation menu.
- Offer decent wine at a decent price.
Sadly I don’t think any of the above will happen. Tamarind Tree probably makes a good profit from taking it’s street food to festivals and the restaurant is most likely just a storage and assembly space.
Vyšehradská 1376/43, 128 00 Nové Město
09:30 to 15:00 Monday to Friday.