Chicago, Restaurants

Chicago Restaurant Reviews: The Tamarind and More

Miso Soup
Miso soup: I am not a fan. - Image via Wikipedia

I was in Chicago last week for the AWP 2012 Conference and Bookfair, where I had the opportunity to check out a couple of different downtown restaurants.

Friday evening I went out to eat with a professor and one of her friends at the Tamarind, which serves a variety of Asian dishes. Located at 614 S Wabash, the Tamarind was a convenient walk from the Hilton Chicago where the majority of the AWP Conference events and the book fair were located.

When we first arrived at the restaurant, it was packed. We were told it would be about a 40 minute wait, which was far too long, so we decided to head down the street to the Thai Spoon. The Thai Spoon was not busy, but we still ended up standing just inside the restaurant for a good 10 minutes without having anyone so much as approach us. After a while, we noticed several people who were lucky enough to have been seated weren’t being waited on, while emptied tables sat waiting to be cleared. It appeared there was only one person working the entire restaurant, so we gave up and left, deciding to put up with the long wait back at the Tamarind.

The Tamarind had cleared out quite a bit by then, but the host told us it would still be about a 40 minute wait. So we decided to look at a menu and just order takeout. The Tamarind has one of those menus that leaves you sitting there, dazed and confused, with no idea what you want to eat. After about 10 minutes of hmming and hawing over the menu, we overheard the host calling for a party of 2 who must have changed their minds and left. So, my professor asked him if he could fit 3 people at that empty table.

Buddhas at the Thai Spoon
We didn't eat at the Thai Spoon, but I took this picture of a bunch of cool Buddha statues they have there.

The server couldn’t fit us there, but my professor must have worked some kind of magic on him because he went and found a different table for us right then and there. So our 30 minute wait turned into a 10 minute wait. The only problem was, once we got to our table, it took forever for a waitress to come around and take our orders. And then the food took forever to arrive once we had ordered.

I wanted to try something I’d never had before, but it seemed like almost every dish had something in it that i don’t like. I don’t consider myself to be especially picky, but there are a few things, like mushrooms, that I just can’t do. And, Asian food just seems to incorporate a lot of the foods I don’t like. Anyway, I ended up ordering a teriyaki steak, which came with a side of rice and a bowl of miso soup. I’d always wanted to try miso soup, and steak is almost always a good bet.

After the waitress took my order and disappeared, it occurred to me that she hadn’t asked me how I wanted it cooked. I’m a Midwestern farm girl, and I love a good, medium to medium rare steak, so this was not a good sign. The steak, while okay, was overcooked for my taste. It was also very thin, and just way too little food for the amount of money I spent. I also wasn’t impressed with the miso soup, which consisted of an overly fishy-flavored broth with tiny squares of tofu and some sort of chopped green leaf floating around in it.

My favorite part of the meal was a glass of plum wine which, along with a little teriyaki sauce, helped wash down the dry steak. I even considered ordering a bottle of wine to take home with me but didn’t feel like lugging it around all night. I probably could have gone for dessert after dinner, but by that time, I think we were all pretty worn out from the conference and the long restaurant waits. So, we just left and went our separate ways.

Saturday afternoon, I had lunch at the 720 South Bar & Grill, located inside the Hilton Chicago, where the service was so slow, my stomach was practically eating itself by the time my food arrived. Of course, the portion size left a lot to be desired for the price of the meal, but this time the steak was cooked to perfection. The steak was served over a splash of salsa verde which gave it an interesting tang. The waiter complemented me on eating the salsa as, according to him, no one ever actually tries the salsa, and he thinks they’re missing out.

The waiter was friendly but kinda gave me a dirty look when I asked for the bill right away as he was serving my meal. But by then, I had been sitting at that table waiting for my food for soooo long, I was in a hurry to get out of there. After all, I came to Chicago to enjoy the AWP conference, not sit in a restaurant by myself waiting for the server to get around to me.

Have you ever eaten at any of these restaurants? What did you think of their food and service? Comment below.

~Mandy Webster

2 thoughts on “Chicago Restaurant Reviews: The Tamarind and More”

  1. To escape my stash of granola bars 19 floors up at the Renaissance Blackstone, and because I was too damned tired and in a hurry to explore, I ate at 720 South a few times while at the conference, one lunch, one breakfast, one dinner. Lunch: service was fine, waiter was funny, pulled pork sandwich was okay, fries were FABulous. And I can usually leave the fries. A side salad would have been nice, but hey, I wasn’t at Charlie Trotter’s. Breakfast: Coffee I wouldn’t recommend but yummy omelet. Even good toast. And I can usually leave the toast. (Maybe I was just really hungry by this time after all those granola bars?) Quick service. Dinner: one of the best burgers ever. Medium rarified perfection. With fried onion rings on the burger. And more french fries. Good thing I only had time to eat one meal a day.
    The only thing I didn’t like about 720 was the presentation. Plates way too small and longly rectuangular. And that little wire basket that held the fries probably kept them crisper longer, but on that small plate, it totally gave me claustrophobia just looking at it. My two glasses of Sebastiani zinfandel helped with that, though.
    Thanks for the fun read!

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