Indian fusion restaurant Tamarind quietly opened on April 1 at 7265 N. La Cholla Blvd., which formerly housed Aaron May restaurant the Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen.
"When I first stepped into this location, I envisioned it could be something big," said Saumil Patel, 24-year-old executive chef and owner of Tamarind. "I had that feeling."
The 6,000-square-foot-space seats 200, including a patio with misters. The interior was renovated from the ground up for an inviting chic vibe. Warm modern lamps complement the maroon and wood furniture. A television with sports playing sits at the end of the U-shaped bar.
"When it comes to restaurants, a lot of people walk in and automatically judge it by the name and look of it," Patel said. "When they walk into an Indian restaurant, it looks Indian. When you walk into here, I want it to look like a restaurant. I want you to come in here with an open book."
London-born Patel grew up in his parents' restaurants — his mother, father, and grandfather are chefs. They moved to California when he was around 10 years old. Once Patel was an adult, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and graduated in 2015.
"My dad has built this empire, I just want to take it to the next level," Patel said.
Since graduating, Patel's Rasraj Foods caters in California, Phoenix, and Tucson. His Artesia, California fine dining Wok N Tandoor restaurant caught the attention of customers throughout the region.
"Ever since I opened in California, people were saying we need this food here," Patel said. "It's always been my dream to open in Tucson since there's a huge clientele for Indian food. I have about 50 customers month from Phoenix or Tucson coming to California to my restaurant."
While Tamarind is far from being Tucson's first Indian restaurant, Patel's London background and formal culinary training help separate his cuisine from other Indian restaurants. Although South Indian and North Indian styles are both on the menu, Patel also brings some Gujrati and Indochinese influences to the table.
"We have a lot of stuff other restaurants don't offer," Patel said. "Bihari kebab, murg malai kabab. The way we make our curries and gravies are different. You'll have western touches that makes our food different. A little bit of a London touch to it."
Tamarind makes all their stocks, sauces, breads, and desserts from scratch daily. Buffet hours are 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Tuesday - Sunday, while a la cart hours are 5 - 10 p.m. Tuesday - Sunday.
Tamarind is located at 7265 N. La Cholla Blvd. For more information, visit tamarindoftucson.com.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...