Tigerlily, located in the Gourmet Ghetto area of Berkeley, just opened up 10 weeks ago! This casual funky restaurant serves up Californian cuisine but with an Indian twist. Very alluring.
The chef, Joel Lamica, formerly worked at BIX and Nojo in San Francisco and even Ramen Shop in Oakland where I visited earlier this year (read my review here). Their menu is quite small but intriguing with unusual combination of flavors and ingredients.
We started off with the radish carpaccio, a light vibrant dish with various types of radishes including daikon and watermelon, paired with tangy crème fraîche, fruity olive oil, and pickled sea grapes (a delicious sea flavored “fruit”).
Next, the kabocha squash fry bread was satisfying and super tasty with lots of aromatics such as fennel seeds, turmeric, leeks, and black sesame seeds topped with melted nutty Gruyère cheese and spicy chili oil. The fry bread is on the heavier side so it’s definitely a dish for sharing.
The squid ink naan was a beautiful dish visually but it lacked some seasoning, perhaps some heat or some salt; the squid itself was cooked perfectly, tender but with a slight char. I think with a few tweaks, this dish could be superb.
Our main entrée, the tikka masala fried chicken, was the highlight of the meal; crunchy crisp fried exterior with moist juicy meat served with a sweet aromatic tikka masala sauce. The fried chicken was served with “dirty” brown rice with spices and braised market greens such as kale and escarole.
The kulfi (a popular frozen dessert in India similar to ice cream but much denser and creamier) was very interesting and unusual since it was flavored with black sesame and served with sweet creamy brûléed meringue and chocolate covered potato chips, yes that’s right chocolate covered potato chips! Strange? Yes but highly inventive.
Our last dish, the olive oil tea cake wasn’t the most creative but yummy with moist cake served with strawberry compote and whipped crème fraîche.
The food at Tigerlily was anything but ordinary. Overall, I think Tigerlily can easily become a really popular restaurant in the East Bay with just a few tweaks here and there to really take their food to the next level. Therefore, I would rate Tigerlily at a 7.5/10.