Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tamari - West meets East in Lawrenceville

Within the past year or so, an intriguing restaurant opened in Lawrenceville called Tamari. It is a fusion restaurant of Latin and Japanese cuisines. DB~ and I have had it on our list of places to go, but didn't check it out until last night. We were joined by DB~'s younger sister, who is the most adventurous of the three of us when it comes to sushi. For the most part, DB~ and I are sushi wimps, mostly just eating california rolls. But we went to Plum for Valentine's Day and had two fantastic maki rolls there -- one was a salmon/cream cheese/avacado roll and the other was a tempura shrimp roll. So we try to be adventurous.

Tamari has in short order made it on to most of the Best of Pittsburgh food lists due to its seamless blending of Latin and Asian flavors. Tamari takes the whole concept of "fusion" very seriously as they have both Latino and Asians working in the restaurant together. And some of the patrons take the fusion concept seriously, too. Like the caucasian guy with his Asian girlfriend next to me. He was watching the Steeler game on the TV, as we sat at the bar for our seats, with such insightful commentary as "Good push by the line there." Meanwhile, his date was probably aware that the Steelers were the team in black and gold. Maybe.

Tamari is a very tough spot to get a table, due mostly to the fact that there are very few tables inside. There are 3 eating areas: the bar (where we ate), the kitchen seating (bar seating where you can watch them make the dishes), and regular seats (probably only 10 tables, tops). When we called at noon for reservations, they only had 4 pm and 10 pm. We chanced it at 7 pm, knowing we could go to Piccolo Forno as a backup, but got lucky and got 3 seats at the bar with a full menu.

The bartender is not a server, I understand that, but he still rushed us to make up our minds at times. And I had to ask for a 2nd menu. I didn't even try for a third. The veins on his biceps had their own veins, so I wasn't going to push my luck. He was probably on a huge Red Bull bender anyway.

We settled on the following dishes, knowing that we were going to share them amongst the 3 of us:
TNT maki roll -- tempura fried tuna, yellowtail, salmon and avacado with a spicy aioli
Lobster sushi platter -- lobster, avacado, cucumber with a lobster fritter served in the lobster shell
Eel and avacado maki roll
Pulled Pork Tostado -- I had to try something Latin

The three sushi dishes were all served on a giant platter and like every good food blogger I took a picture. Or when DB~ said halfway through "Do you want to take a picture for the blog?" D'OH!! In the picture above, the TNT is on top, the lobster is in the foreground, the eel/avacado is in the middle and my tostada is tossed on the left hand side. Just picture double the amount of food as in the picture.

Everything was fantastic. I heartily recommend the TNT if you go. The flavors and the aioli mix perfectly. The lobster, especially the fritter, was great too. DB~'s sister had the eel/avacado roll and semi-peer-pressured me into trying it. It was like an after-school special, except for urbanite adults. It was a little squishy, but not as bad as you would think.

We were close enough to the kitchen seating area that we could watch the sushi chefs do their thing. It is truly an art form. A few years ago, I bought a sushi recipe book and the mats, special rice, vinegars to make my own sushi. I made it once and then remembered (at the time) that I didn't like sushi that much. But I'm transfixed by watching pros make it at restaurants. It is edible art.

The interior decor of Tamari is well-done, but not "wow". The walls are done in a very subtle celery shade of green. The bar has a great rippled copper sheeting backsplash. And the dividing line between the restaurant and the bathrooms is a beaded curtain of tiny steel balls. This reminded me of two things: 1) One of my favorite movies, Fletch -- "It's all ball bearings nowadays" and 2) Get Smart -- Max pushes aside a beaded curtain and all the beads fall off on to the floor. They may have been better served putting a runner track into the floor and anchoring the beaded steel ball curtain into it.

The sushi was fantastic and could be the best in the city. I thought the prices were fair too. My tostada was very filling for $8, especially if you split a sushi platter with someone. Each person could eat for $20 at Tamari. Go check it out. If you take someone from a different culture, you get bonus points.

1 comment:

  1. I'm Irish. Did we get something for free? :) I don't remember the paint color, but the sushi was amazing. I want to go back and try some more! ~