Tamarindo is an inconspicuous, if not out of place restaurant on the outskirts of Oakland’s Chinatown, surrounded by vacant offices and Chinese purveyors of food stuffs, banks, and acupuncture clinics. Rumored to be an up and coming area, Tamarindo is definitely, at this point, a destination restaurant.
A chef friend of mine and I met for a quick lunch before work, I, arriving earlier than him was getting giddy upon seeing the plates leave the partially open kitchen.
The décor is modern rustic Aztec; the artwork for the most part was understated except for a stunning oversized painting of Maria Felix, “the Sophia Loren of Mexico”, hung on the one exposed brick wall.
Service is prompt, friendly, warm, and informative, some servers almost seeming excited to share the true foods of regional Mexico with the guests used to the Americanized gringo versions; the wine list concentrated on either Latin countries or Mexican wine makers from California. Overwhelmed with choosing just one glass, I went for the Syrah based Sangria instead, a beautiful bright red libation with perfectly diced fruit floating amongst the ice, it was refreshing without being too sweet, or too strong, a perfect midday drink.
We choose three plates each to share, some light, some heavier, but all in perfect portion sizes and with exceptional authentic flavors that you don’t find in most Mexican restaurants. My personal favorites were the Chilaquiles in a chipotle sauce and Tamales Oaxaca, which were wrapped in a banana leaf and filled with tender spiced chicken (an improvisational filling to the usual pork). I finished with a warm crepe draped in a goats milk caramel that made my eyes roll back in my head and a Mexican version of a mocha, which bore almost no resemblance to the one you would get at the Starbucks two doors down. Nothing was less than extraordinary, so don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone of crunchy tacos and enchiladas and enter the trusted hands of an exceptional chef.
Taken from the website:
“Antojeria translates to a place of little cravings. We offer you a warm environment to savor regional dishes from Mexico in appetizing proportions. We encourage you to try a few dishes and taste the variations of Mexican cuisine.”
468 8th St
Oakland, CA 94607
Also contributed to Bayareacritics.com