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Food Porn, Glorious Food Porn: Tamarind Savoring India

It’s not easy reviewing a restaurant when you visit with a party of eight people, especially when it’s for a special occasion. So when our (newly engaged) friends Jackie and Bill invited a bunch of us out to Tamarind at Scott Towne Center (I can’t seem to avoid that place these days), I was prepared to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to write up the most nuanced review considering the circumstances.

Still, what lacks in detailed observation can still be made up for, in some ways, by flat out, unadulterated food porn. But before we get to that, a few words on Indian cuisine.

(Please note that I am not a culinary expert on Indian cuisine, and would never ever ever pretend to be one. I am sharing a very basic comparison. If there is anything obvious that I missed or got wrong, let me know in the comments.)

While the traditional eating customs of India can vary wildly by region, the cuisine is typically divided into North and South Indian cuisines. (Tamarind Savoring India specializes in South Indian cuisine.) While they share a lot in common, the difference really lies in the emphasis of the dishes. South Indian cuisine is spicier and uses more rice. It is also the more vegetarian-heavy. North Indian cuisine is milder, with an emphasis on dairy, breads, and lentils, as well as tomatoes as a staple ingredient in many sauces.

Like most ethnic cuisines, the distinctions of regional influence get fuzzy in an American translation, hence the reason that the majority of Indian restaurants offer a blend of North and South Indian dishes. The distills the wide array of Indian cuisine to an accessible few dozen entrees, sides, snacks, and desserts that a Western audience can fully embrace.

Then there are places like Tamarind that seek to really embrace their South Indian cuisine, meaning that while some items available here are frequently considered North Indian staples, they are prepared, spiced, and portioned to South Indian tradition. That means heavy gravies, heavy spice, and a lot of rice to go with them.

Okay, enough chatter. Onto the food!

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It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mex

big Burrito Group gets quite a lot of love in Pittsburgh, but none of the six bBG restaurants are quite the success that Mad Mex is. While the other restaurants are exclusive single location stops, Mad Mex has six locations in this region alone (and more in Columbus, Happy Valley, ).

It’s not really hard to understand why. Mad Mex offers a decent menu based off a blend of Mexican, Spanish, and Southeastern Asian cuisines, a blend that yields a few surprises to what can be the exhausted standards of most Mexican restaurants. It is also the most economical of the bBG restaurants, with most entrees coming in under twelve dollars (many of them coming in under ten) and Happy Hour specials that offer a good bargain on cocktails and appetizers, especially appealing for the twenty- and thirty-something urban professionals that serve as the eatery’s prime demographic.

I had only ever been to the Mad Mex in Oakland and Wes had never been to any of the locations, but he pointed out that there is one located right over in Scott Towne Center. I had a pair of coupons to receive $5 off an entree, so we thought we might as well give it a try.

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