Tamarind Vietnamese & Phở Kitchen: Fast and Furious Fusion
Tamarind Vietnamese & Phở Kitchen
120 S Main Street, Salt Lake City
Open Daily 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
385-259-0277 | tamarindslc.com
In Vietnamese culture, tamarind trees symbolize a fruit ripe with possibilities. Tamarind Vietnamese & Phở Kitchen is a dream come to fruition. The co-owners and siblings, Dao and Lisa Ly, are entrepreneurs of modern Vietnamese-American fusion. Tamarind’s origin story began when Dao and Lisa’s mother left Vietnam. She lived in a refugee camp in the Philippines for several months, selling Vietnamese food to make a living before immigrating to Salt Lake City. The Ly sisters use these family recipes to cultivate their unique culinary perspective. Their Vietnamese classics may not be entirely traditional but they are dynamic and adaptable with something for everyone. Located downtown, directly across from the Eccles Theater, Tamarind is a great choice for those enjoying the film festivals this year!
Poised to evolve with the modernized landscape of accessible fast food, Tamarind’s service thrives on takeout and delivery. The dining experience is almost fully automated and when dining in person, you order from a kiosk. With a focus on convenience, the decor and plate presentation are clean and minimalist. The interior is bright and hopeful, illuminated by the majestic light of the Eccles Theater.
If you are looking for a “pho-king” wild time, test your stomach with the “Pho-king Boss Challenge,” which dares adventurous customers to eat eight pounds of pho in under an hour.
Tables armed with sriracha and hoisin sauce sit beneath a beautiful mural depicting a Vietnamese woman surrounded by vibrant flowers. Our food arrived in an aromatic overture. The Rice Chips ($2.49) were very modest with some dried seaweed and sesame seeds sprinkled on top. Airy and crunchy, they are reminiscent of Korean shrimp puff chips. I enjoyed crushing them into my Fried Tofu and Bok Choy Phở ($12.49). The tofu was crisp on the outside and soft inside like a perfectly toasted, golden marshmallow. The broth was light and savory, enriched with Thai basil, jalapeños and bean sprouts. I took my leftover phở home and it was enough for another meal. An affordable quantity of food is a rarity nowadays, but Tamarind has it figured out. You can’t get Vietnamese food without fresh Spring Rolls ($9.49 per two rolls), a refreshing side dish enhanced by delicious peanut sauce and textured by crushed peanuts. It was so good I added the remaining sauce to my phở.
The Ly sisters’ playful vision connects traditional recipes with modern flavor combinations.
The Teriyaki Chicken Banh Mi with a garlic butter spread knocked everything out of the park. A Vietnamese staple with warm crisp bread and a consistent ratio of fillings meant each bite burst with flavor. The most pleasant surprise was the Cassava Coconut Cake ($4.50). This thick, square, coconut macaroon dissolves on the tongue. That alone would have been fantastic, but there was also a sweet pineapple puree that complemented the treat and was reminiscent of a lemon meringue pie.
I was practically salivating while admiring the order of Loaded Tater Tots at the table next to mine. The delectable tots form the base of the dish, and you’re offered a choice of braised pork belly, garlic butter beef or coconut curry chicken/tofu. If none of those suit your fancy, there are many more protein options to choose from such as teriyaki chicken, two vegan patties and/or avocado. Tots are topped with melted cheese, fried shallots, fresh kimchi and garnished with green onions. If you want to go all out, you can even add a fried egg. Sadly, the Loaded Tater Tots were sold out when I visited the restaurant, and I can see why! Tamarind is the perfect place to pick up a snack on either end of a movie this film festival season. Be sure to stop by for the happy hour menu—don’t get hangry and spoil the movie!
If you are looking for a “pho-king” wild time, test your stomach with the “Pho-king Boss Challenge,” which dares adventurous customers to eat eight pounds of pho in under an hour. Hang your photo on the wall as the first-ever winner or be placed among the “Pho-kups,” the brave souls who unsuccessfully attempted this challenge.
The Ly sisters’ playful vision connects traditional recipes with modern flavor combinations. They demonstrate creative ways to expand the possibilities of Vietnamese cuisine to actively meet the demands of an increasing culture of busyness. Try their culinary fusion of past and present with an open mind. Next time, I’ll definitely order the Phở Burger—an Americanized form of phở you can eat on the go. Is Tamarind foreshadowing the future of phở?