1115 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield, (860) 563-1818, tamarindct.com
When I saw signs for the arrival of Tamarind, a new Thai and Malaysian restaurant in Wethersfield, I thought, Malaysian food: awesome! We don't see much of that around here.
Tamarind isn't identical to Tamarind Grill and Bar on Pratt Street in downtown Hartford, though it too advertises Thai and Malaysian cuisine and has a similar menu. The restaurants both take their name from the fruit whose sweet raisin-like pulp is used as an ingredient in many cuisines around Southeast Asian and elsewhere.
Both Tamarinds advertise Malaysian food, and neither makes it the focus of the menu. If you spent a summer backpacking around Malaysia and you came to Tamarind looking for some familiar favorites from your travels, you might have to search a bit.
That might not be a fair gripe. A restaurant has to hedge its bets as to how authentic and how genuinely exotic it can be and still be successful. Some customers will find the food at Tamarind to be pretty much like Thai food with an occasional tweak. Others will find everything there to be foreign.
The interior is clean and sleek, with a nod to Dutch minimalism in the colored block patterns at the bar, and a cool arrangement of white branches serving as baffles between sections of the dining room.
I stopped in for lunch recently. Lunch specials include a choice of chicken satay or dumpling appetizers, and there are a number of $9 options. The Malaysian style noodle could have passed for a version of pad Thai, with different noodles and minus the peanuts. This was made with thin noodles, mung bean sprouts, slices of grilled onion and green pepper, bits of scrambled egg and grilled shrimp. Everything had a nice hint of char from the grill, but there was no fire or bite of acid from vinegar or citrus. And the tables didn't have any spicy condiments to allow for DIY seasoning.
The menu denotes a mix of Thai and Malaysian items. Malaysia is a vast multicultural country, and, like Thailand, the cuisine there is influences by Chinese, Indian and Indonesian traditions, among others. Tamarind offers a few dishes that feature sambal, a Malaysian chili paste.
There are curries, dishes with coconut milk bases, vegetarian offerings, stir-frys with sweet tropical fruits like pineapple and mango. Other dishes showcase lemongrass, lime leaves, basil or nuts. My advice is to enjoy Tamarind for its varied menu, but don't be disappointed if you find little that you can't get at other Thai restaurants.