Tamba, a restaurant that plates up Indian Inspired food, is a relatively new addition to the Chic & Opulent dining culture in Abu Dhabi. The restaurant is located at “The HUB” on the 6th floor at World Trade Center Mall and is nothing short of an elegantly written story. Tamba (तांबा) literally translates to Copper Metal which is reflected in its dark (romantic) ambiance. The restaurant itself resembles a painting with hues of dark orange, browns and highlights of mauve. Every detail in the restaurant perfectly blends together and exudes the good feeling of chill, relax and start a conversation. Not to forget, the most iconic part of the restaurant are the two brass bells right at the bar, which is worth a stare for a minute (or maybe five).
Tamba is one that promises an experience from the minute you step in. Now the word experience is a very loose term used by pretty much every restaurant around the globe. But the drama created by that open kitchen (my first impression) kept me assured. Two interesting details to note are, 1) The small pass, and 2) the chef’s table. You’ll know more as you read about the food. I was invited for a complimentary meal during the startup phase of the restaurant. Yes, the theme of the restaurant is in fact “Indian inspired”, however, I’d like to think of it more as…
A refreshing new perspective on Indian Cuisine
To experience the food as it was, I had to resist the temptation of cocktails menu, however the alcohol-free mixes are no disappointment at all.
Starting off with the prettiest drink of all – Dragon Flower. Of course it’s quite easy to understand where that name came from right? With a blend of elderflower and orange, garnished with dragonfruit and mint, this certainly is the most refreshing way to start off a beautiful meal!
Jaggery (गुड़ in Hindi) is a concentrated block of Cane Sugar. This sweet and healthy ingredient is widely used in many Indian dishes, especially a type of sweet dosa (Indian pancakes/crêpes) stuffed with jaggery. Now the Jagger Jam Pot took this ingredient and spiced it up with Masala Syrup and Cinammon. It is definitely a must try if you want something reminiscent of India!
Of course, we can’t just stick to the drinks can we?
Food – Bites
As traditionally the concept of any Indian dish, Tamba’s menu induces the idea of sharing. While it may not be the usual “Curry and Rice/Naan” dishes you may find in a regular menu, the plates served here may seem a bit unusual.I mean, have you ever seen or heard an Indian dish with Foie Gras stuffed inside a Lamb Kofta? Or perhaps something as simple as Calamari? – So where is the whole idea of Indian Inspiration then?
We started off our journey with a Spicy Tuna Chur-Muri. Now Churumuri (चुर मूरी) is one of India’s favorite Street Snack (similar to chaat much to the likes of Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, etc.). Found commonly in Karnataka, in the Udupi-Mangalore region, this street snack is made out of puffed rice, onions, tomatoes and coriander with chaat masala. Tamba adds a twist to this by using this street style concept to serve rare spicy tuna with salmon (to represent tomatoes) and dehydrated egg yolk flakes to represent bhel. In my opinion, this was a simply fantastic way to introduce rare (raw) items to an “Indian Menu”
I’ve been through an ocean of calamari and have found only two perfect types. One is the traditional semolina batter coated ones you’d find in a frito misto of an Italian Restaurant. The other is from Thai restaurants that is uses ginger and black pepper in the batter. Tamba however made me love a new type, a Calamari flavored with coarsely crushed curry spices. Imagine the powder that flavors up your traditional fish curry dusted over crispy calamari (much like buffalo spice thrown on crispy chicken wings). Heaven, right? This appetizer definitely takes a place on the list of best variations of Calamari, ever!
Last on the Bites list was the Lamb Kofta stuffed with Foie Gras stuffed with Magic chutney (pictured in the beginning of this section) was by all means wow! Perfect and juicy, the Foie Gras stuffing, in my opinion, gets a bit lost with all the rich flavor of the meat, and thus seems like an excuse to bump up the price (much like gold flakes on a cake – just to feel luxurious). The chutney is a tangy blend of herbs, one you’d find in any Indian household. Does it go with the meat? Probably just a dash, least you find yourself losing the true flavor and richness of the lamb.
With a lot of flavor roller coasters, we had to go for an amuse bouche, sort to say. So we opted for the Baby Spinach salad which took things even further. A plate of food at Tamba always tells a story in some way or the other. In this case, it wasn’t just salad with dressing, but a burst from every side of the flavor circle.
Being the first vegetarian dish on our order that night, I must say that the serving plate made me smile just as much as the variety of color! With strips of paneer folded in between baby spinach, shards of crispy garlic and sweet (pickled) chilli were perfect additions to what I usually make at home (a comparatively boring salad with tinned tuna). With a perfect combination of soft and crispy textures, this salad is just so refreshing!
Food – The Mains
Remember when I said Tamba’s menu is all about sharing? When you order the “mains”, don’t expect a big plate full of protein, starch and sides. It’s all in small-medium sized portions – to share – and with the quality of food served, we were definitely happy as we got to try out a wide range of dishes!
Again, Cod isn’t a regular on an Indian menu. However, this dish was absolutely amazing. Beautiful to look at (yes I did take 10 minutes for the pictures), it’s a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Very similar to a Grilled Salmon you would get at a Japanese Restaurant, the jaggery takes place for that sweetness in the Japanese version of the Teriyaki sauce. Served along with a dipping sauce, or a chutney, that tastes of freshly ground coconut and curry masala. The combination of the two just gave the perfect Indian touch that reminded me of a fish curry in a very “fine dining” style. The fish was Oh! so moist!
Having worked in an Italian restaurant, I’ve grown to cook, admire and love Risotto! Two words that can get me out of bed at anytime are Mushroom Risotto. Think of wild bold, meaty sautéed mushrooms folded into a rich, creamy, parmesan-rich risotto that oozes nothing but comfort and richness.
After having this dish (pictured below), it suddenly hit me. In India, we also have a version of risotto! It’s simply called Khichdi (खिचड़ी) – Thanks to my cousin, this has become my sort of go-to Indian comfort food when you just feel too lazy on a Friday afternoon! With a spoon of pickle and onion rings doused in salt and lime – Oh My God! Heaven! Khichdi is an Indian preparation of rice and lentils. The stock (which is used in a Risotto) is substituted with Dal (or Lentil Soup, in easier terms), while instead of Arborio Rice, you have regular long grain Basmati. And no, there’s no cheese in a khichdi, but its just as good and heavenly (and divine)!
Tamba came up with an interesting concept of a Mushroom Khichdi. At first instance, it does indeed sound weird. But the dish, first of all so beautiful served in an earthen style pot, comes staring at you in the face rich in aroma of mushrooms and so colorful, you can’t help but breath a sigh of wow!
The Mushroom khichdi is divine. Again playing with textures, you have the creamy mushroom rice along with crispy croquettes of morel and a tangy pickled (compotized) version of blackberries. A bit of flavor unbalance probably with the sweet, tangy fruit and creamy, meaty mushrooms? But really, the combination actually works!
Last but not least is the Duck. Indeed the highlight of night!
Tamba’s version of the Duck comes roasted and is served rare with Korma (a rich, creamy gravy) and Kumquat (a South-Asian citrus fruit). The dish, garnished with an edible flower, spoke nothing but abundant romance. Everything about this dish is rich – the duck meat itself, and the korma gravy. It was quite difficult to share this after a heavy meal already – but we somehow managed to do it! I’ve always tasted duck on its own (rendered on a pan) with a side of sweet sauce (plum, usually), and the Chinese take on Peking Duck.
But none could compare to how succulent and juicy the meat was! Yes, it was a bit awkward seeing duck on an Indian menu, but everything about was just surprising in the best way possible. The Kumquat, which I saw and tasted for the first time, was perfectly sour enough to cut the rich sweetness of the gravy. This is a meal on it’s own, one that’s guaranteed to leave you satisfied and (in my case) craving for more!
Sweet Temptations with Lasting Impressions
So that was around 2 hours of food from the hot kitchen itself, and we were dying to try out what was in store for desserts. In all respect, it seemed better than we anticipated!
We started off with the Sticky Situation – A moist caramelized banana toffee, served with Pecan Nut Praline and Cardamom Ice Cream (and the gold flakes). Yes the combination is a match made in heaven. And the serving is as dramatic as the gradients shown on the plate. Four spoons on each take and we loved every bit of it! Sort of reminded us of a very luscious banana-walnut cake.
Next up was Mrs. Lady Chatterjee – A beautifully served breakfast version of an upside down cheesecake.
Rightfully named after woman, this elegant dessert was as light and moist as soufflé. Yet, rich and creamy, I feel the passion fruit added that perfect amount of tanginess to keep this dessert refreshing.
And finally…The Breakup!
Now desserts served all over the country are all about the richness and the drama. Majority dictate the need to pull out your phone and Video-gram it. Excitement is at crest when there is Liquid Nitrogen involved or when chocolate is being poured from the ceiling. For some reason, a plate or a milkshake loaded with ten different types of chocolate in ten different states of matter becomes a 100k liked picture and an “Absolutely Must-Have” and an “Absolutely To-Die-For”. But what really is in it? It’s just a 100k calorie combination of ordinary chocolate, ordinary milk, ordinary ice cream and possibly ordinary store-bought chocolate sprinkles. I don’t see the fuss in it.
What should be appreciated is when a chef paints his story, uses ingredients as colors and blends everything into a perfect and deserving 100k likes picture that should be an “Absolutely Must-Have” and an “Absolutely To-Die-For”. The chefs at Tamba definitely create the buzz and drama with The Breakup! Brought to you in (again) an Earthen Style Bowl, you see a shimmery big ball of Chocolate with a peanut semifreddo base, while your host stands by you and explains the story behind this dish…This is stage 1.
Of course, this is when the drama begins. Your host brings out a pestle and smashes (literally) the shimmery orb of chocolate that brings about silence – just like how a heart is shattered in a relationship. While the orb of chocolate bleeds out with chocolate mousse and salted caramel. It’s indeed painful to watch. It is. Rest assured, the healing process begins as soon your host pours rich chocolate sauce (from the ceiling, yes I know what you’re thinking)…this is stage 2.
So why is it so special? Firstly, “The Breakup” its perfectly dramatic and its quite clear as to why it’s called so. Secondly, Chocolate Mousse and Peanut Semifreddo together – only the most beautiful combination on earth (like poached eggs and hollandaise). The chocolate sauce is poured from top and adds more richness, binding every ingredient together. This ensures every spoonful makes up for the heart break you were put through. It definitely was the best part of the night, and one of the top desserts I have every had! (Yes you should try it out!). Here’s a small glimpse of the drama…
Remember at the beginning of this post, I spoke about the small pass? The pass was designed this way to ensure that the food keeps moving. From the looks of it, it worked out, since everything that was served on our table that day, was nothing short of fresh and hot! Now the chef’s table sits a group of 8, directly at the live-view kitchen. For a more personal dining experience, this would definitely be the table to book!
More details on Tamba can be found at their website – http://tambarestaurant.com/. You can also visit their Zomato page (click the button below).