We’re going to throw this out right at the beginning of our review. Tamba is one of the best restaurants in Abu Dhabi! Surprising us with what could well be our favorite dining experience in the UAE… period!
Now this was not our first visit to Tamba, having attended the opening back in April and various media soirées in the months that followed. Somehow it has taken us seven months to actually visit for a sit down meal. With all of the hype surrounding this progressive Indian eatery, could it really live up to such an epic reputation?
The word Tamba means ‘copper’ in Hindi and the reason for this is evident upon entering the sophisticated space. Copper is intrinsically woven into the concept, from the original copper pots used for Indian cookery, to the delicate cutlery sat upon the wooden tabletops. Of course, you cannot miss the large Indian temple bells that hang above the bar area.
Taking it further, the oxidisation of copper turns its colouration green and these elements are evident in the soft furnishings and bar area. Tamba presents a intricate space of meticulous precision, one that’s immediately welcoming and will pique the interest of even the most seasoned of diners.
Despite the large restaurant space, it doesn’t feel cavernous. The dining room is divided into more intimate areas via the use of wooden latticework and chained curtains (printed with a striking 360 degree bell design). Tamba feels upmarket without being pretentious and this feeling is replicated in the impressive service. Our server (the affable Sean) was attentive enough to remember us from previous visits, welcoming us back like old friends and really taking the time to explain the concept. With in depth knowledge of the menu and how the dishes are prepared, the service we received was probably the most proficient we have received in this city renowned for excellent customer service. Offering heartfelt recommendations with no up-selling in sight, Sean guided us on a journey through the menu to the dishes that would suit our specific tastes.
Although the food is Indian inspired, you’re unlikely to find the usual curries, rice and dal associated with Indian cuisine. Instead the team at Tamba have fine-tuned the constantly evolving menu, from more than 700 renditions, into a succinct selection of global dishes, with a distinctive modern Indian twist. In keeping with common trends, food is served sharing style and it’s highly recommended that you order around three dishes each and though portions are slightly on the small side. This concept allows diners to experience more of Tamba’s complex flavour combinations. We’re informed that dishes come to the table as they’re ready and main courses will take between 20 – 25 minutes to prepare. As with everything else, this turns out to be completely accurate.
Our meal begins with ‘King Crab Puri.‘ Tamba’s unique take on Indian street food snack, pani puri. Utilizing a hollow puri bread (in this case shaped like a crab shell) stuffed with crab meat and topped with a distinctive lime and mint foam. The puri is adorned with a single petal in an example of immaculate presentation. Despite its delicate nature, the pani puri should be consumed as one mouthful, allowing the textures to blend on the palette and provided bursts of powerful flavour sensations.
Elements of molecular gastronomy crept into proceedings with the arrival of the ‘Delhi Mix.’ Described in the menu as a quinoa smoky mess. Once the smoke clears the dish should be stirred together to blend the ingredients (yogurt, quinoa, spices, bejeweled pomegranate seeds and shards of papad). With each mouthful appear different ingredients, so the flavours of the dish develop as you work your way through. It’s almost like eating breakfast granola but with the addition of Indian spices.
Much like the pani puri, this is a dish that intricately blends textures and flavours to create a dining experience like no other and with the utilization of fresh seasonal produce and precise execution, it’s dishes like these that make dining at Tamba so impressive.
Managing director Akshay Dosaj describes Tamba as a global dining experience, similar to the modern Indian lady. Someone with Eastern values, who may not necessarily wear a sari or bindi. Someone who respects their culture but in soaking up the influences around them, wants to be seen as an individual. This is the perfect metaphor to describe both the food and concept at Tamba, which is distinctly Indian at heart but inspired by other elements. The ‘Lamb Gyoza’ exemplifies this global idea by using the Japanese rice dumpling with a sesame chutney but filling it with pulled lamb that’s spiced in uniquely Indian flavours.
Despite a tantalizing selection of salads and raw dishes, it was Tamba’s newest culinary offering that we turned to next. The ‘Bombay Baji Roll‘ takes Italian lasagne sheets and wraps them around mashed vegetables. The Italian inspired dish, retains an Indian nature with the addition of a creamy mango sauce that penetrates the Baji rolls and blends with the vegetables to provide an insatiably sweet treat – this is fusion at it’s best.
Our mains were next to arrive and though we struggled to decide (everything sounded so good), we eventually decided against the smoked chicken with tomato gravy and the masala rub wagyu. Instead selecting the ‘Roasted Duck Kumquat Korma.’ The balance between textures and flavour are certainly Tamba’s strong point and this poultry dish is cooked sous-vide style to evenly cook the meat, while retaining moisture. The addition of a quinoa crust provides an additional texture to the meat, while the citrusy tang from then kumquat and sweet creaminess of the korma, complement one another admirably.
We challenge you to find ‘Chilean Sea Bass’ on another Indian menu in the UAE. The fish is extremely tender and flakes easily thanks to the light grilling process. Topped with a crown of sliced cabbage and micro cress, the marinade is subtle enough not to overpower the delicate nature of the sea bass.
Let’s pause a moment to discuss the beverages. Tamba has cleverly sidestepped the standard mojitos and daiquiris in favour of something for more original. The Mr. Pillai (a blend of rum and Indian spiced cream) is like a drinkable rasmalai, while the Coconut Curry Colada (rum, coconut liquor, curry leaves and lemongrass marmalade) flips the traditional Piña colada on its head, transforming it into something straight from the backwaters of Kerala. We’re politely informed that we’re actually the first customers to sample the Wake You Up & Shake You Up (Guatemalan rum, coffee and black forest syrup). A drink that’s adorned with chocolate and akin to drinking a black forest gateaux
Anyone who has visited Tamba raves about their desserts and they certainly seem to be one of the main draws. Interestingly enough there is a story behind the dessert menu but we won’t ruin that for you. We begin with ‘Lady Chatterjee’, a cheesecake decorated with white chocolate and dehydrated honey shards. Yet her interior reveals a surprise of passion fruit curd and popping candy in another impressive blend of textures.
‘The Break-Up’ is a stunning dessert that seems to have the whole of Abu Dhabi talking (and Instagramming of late). A beautiful gold sphere sits in the center of a heavy bowl and before your very eyes… the sphere is destroyed! Before being topped with chocolate sauce and a mixture of salted caramel and peanut semifreddo. Making this an absolutely divine dessert and a contender for the best dessert consumed by team Out & About UAE.
Lastly comes the ‘Sticky Situation’ a less glamorous dessert in terms of presentation but one that is still of exceptional note. A moist caramelized banana toffee cake is sprinkled with gold leaf, pecan nut praline and accompanied by a distinctly Indian cardamom ice cream. Neither as sweat nor as heavy as the other desserts, the sticky situation is a true delight.
Most impressive is how much of a faultless experience dining at Tamba is. The bar is set high at the beginning of the meal and does not falter from appetizers through to desserts. Tamba is forging ahead and creating its own unique dining concept, quite unlike anywhere else in the city and hailed by many as one of the best restaurants in Abu Dhabi. This is fact that we can happily confirm.
It’s been a long time since we’ve wanted to return to a restaurant immediately and we’ve already decided on what to eat during our next visit. That’s the type of excitable feeling Tamba gives diners. We only wish they would launch a brunch, wether it be of the Thursday evening or Friday lunchtime variety. Visitors and Abu Dhabi residents, need to try this food and as much of it as possible! So brunch seems a logical step towards this.
Tamba is constantly trying to improve and engage with customers and have launched ‘Tamba Sundowners.’ Something that’s been truly lacking from the capital is a post-brunch venue, where you pay a set fee for unlimited drinks and canapés. We can’t think of anywhere else (other than McGettigan’s) that offers this and with captivating cityscape views from Tamba’s exquisite wrap around terrace. It’s a great spot to spend your Friday evenings and as the sun sets and day turns to night, Tamba acts like a chameleon. Transforming from fine dining establishment to hip lounge, with a DJ spinning some great beats and ambient tracks. Every Friday 4pm – 7pm at 200AED ++
The Hub is exactly what Abu Dhabi’s dining scene requires. An injection of life and a place to see and be seen. We finally have restaurants that trump Dubai and as with BU just a few levels below, The Hub is changing the dining landscape in the capital for the better.
With Tamba we have a completely new and innovative concept and one that actually works. The passion is evident and the execution so meticulous, that it’s actually very difficult to find fault. Tamba is more than just a dining experience, it leaves you with an unshakeable feeling of greatness…
We were invited to dine at Tamba. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.