Seattle: The Tamarind Tree

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were all dead tired. I guess it was not because of the places we visited today but the past three days. So we decided to go back to the hotel to have a nap and then go out for a late dinner. It was certainly what we all needed.

We woke up at almost 8PM but Arkensen was still very tired and wanted to continue to sleep. We had bought some fried chicken from Albertson’s and left that for him to eat in the hotel while we took a drive to the Tamarind Tree for dinner.


The Tamarind Tree was one of the highly recommended places from readers of chowtimes. They are located in Little Saigon. If not for the GPS, we would probably have rounded the place a few times because this restaurant is hidden behind a strip mall on 1036 S Jackson St.


We were impressed with the restaurant. This is certainly not like any Vietnamese Pho restaurants we had ever been to. The Tamarind Tree is many class above that. I was wondering if there is a place like this in Vancouver, I can’t think of any. This does not appear to me like a family restaurant maybe because this is an upscale Vietnamese restaurant.

For one, this place does not reek of pho soup. You know what I mean? Everytime I have a meal in Vancouver’s Vietnamese restaurant, I always end of having my clothings and jacket smell like pho. I can’t see anyone having pho here. No siree.


The table setting is very nice but am not sure if this is Vietnamese though. We did not have the ubiquitous plastic Sriracha hot chilli sauce bottle here.


But the place is really dark. It was so dark that it’s impossible to read the menu even after moving the menu next to the candle cup … any nearer the menu will probably combust. We had to ask for a torch light and I am amazed that they had to scour for one for us. I was thinking that this place is so dark I was quite sure many customers would have asked for one too. Maybe we’re getting old and our eyesight is failing! Time for us to get one of the credit sized magnifying glass cum lights.

Because of the poor light, many of the pictures ended up fuzzy — I wanted you to know that. I cranked the ISO to 1600 on the camera and yet there was not enough light.


We decided to order their “7 Courses of Beef”. I think it’s their specialty and was recommended by the waiter. The first course was the Beef Salad which came with some kind of fish sauce (above). We were told to pour it over the Beef Salad (below).


Nanzaro had never been one to like vegetables, let alone salad but he absolutely loved this.

In many ways, this tastes a lot like the Malaysian Yee Sang (raw fish salad). The mix of crunchy fresh cabbage and cilantro and thin slices of beef and most importantly the fish sauce made this an awesome dish. We were telling ourselves that if this is just the first course, we are in for a treat that night.


Course two is simply called Beef Vinegar. It’s a do it yourself dish. First component is a plate of thinly sliced beef.


The other components are a big plate of green herbs (basil?), beans sprout, carrot and vermicelli. Also there is a burning pot of

vinegar — or at least, I think this is vinegar since this dish is called the Beef Vinegar.

We hesitated for a moment on what to do until the waiter came and gave us a crash course.


First we had to cook the raw beef slices in the vinegar. And then …


… the hard part is to assemble this. We made a real mess of it. It was not easy putting this together with the rice paper that was provided. I never knew handling rice paper was so difficult … the instructions sounded simple … just soak it for 5 seconds and then wrap it up. Oh yeah, sure.

We see the other tables (and whites too!) putting this together so deftly. Ours fell apart and looked awful. However, it was great. It is because of the ingredients they gave us was fresh and very good.

I remember thinking … this is course two of seven and I am beginning to feel full already!


It’s a good thing that Course 3 through 6 came in a single dish. They are all meat — basically marinated in different ways and grilled. They were really nice.


We still had some stuff left from course 2 and we improvised by mixing this meats with rice paper, vermicelli and herbs. We practically ate with our hands throughout, made a big mess but we had a great time.


The last course was the Rice Soup. Cute name but it should be called congee but Rice Soup sounded nicer. We love this as there is a certain sweetness to it unlike the Chinese congee which is basically salty.

All the above is only $27. It was really, really good. Do any of you know of a place in Vancouver which is like The Tamarind Tree? We will definitely want to come back again here for their other dishes.

Oh, I smelt my jacket as I left the restaurant … no smell of pho.

So, all thanks to “fresh_one” who recommended The Tamarind Tree to us. This is the BEST Vietnamese meal we ever had.

Tamarind Tree on Urbanspoon

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  1. sofei

    Hi Ben,

    I’m your blog’s fan! but this is my first time to leave a reply. just wanna say your blog is awesome! I’ve been trying some of your recommendations, and they all turned out to be really good! I’m going to have a day trip at Seattle next week with my boyfriend and I hope we’ll get a chance to try out this restaurant. Anyways, keep up the good work and have a nice long weekend!


  2. LotusRapper

    Wow that’s one classy-looking Viet restaurant. We’ll have to check it out with our Seattle friends next time we’re down.

    No I can’t think of anything like that here in Vancouver. Pho Hoang on Main/18th is about as nice as they get. Although I HAVE BEEN to this new small place on Main at around 30th Ave (east side, corner) that aspires to be more contemporary (with no neon lighting, haha). I only had a quick pho lunch there so I couldn’t comment on their other offerings.

    There’s Phnom Penh in Chinatown that’s ok but they lean more Cambodian. And Thai …. well they are the dominant cuisine in the SE Asian segment that has gone upscale.

  3. LotusRapper

    Poor Arkensen ……

    If I may suggest, QFC and Haggen’s each have superb deli fried chicken. In fact I would go as far as saying they are better than Church’s and KFC.

  4. Su-Lin

    Wow – that 7 course beef meal looks amazing! I too started looking online for a place in Vancouver that does that but came up with nothing. Maybe it’s an American-Vietnamese thing? No idea.

    I love Phnom Penh in Chinatown!

  5. johta

    I saw this post sometime ago on a forum. Anybody familiar with it ?

    ” Cinderella Sep 19 2005, 06:51 PM Post #37
    There’s a brand new Vietnamese Restaurant in Richmond (opened up some time Aug., 2005). It’s owned by my friend’s close family friend. The very first upscale vietnamese restaurant of its kind, authentic vietnamese food & excellent food. Saigon Garden (Vietnamese Cuisine), #2215-4653 Garden City Rd. (Garden City & Alderbridge), Richmond, BC, Tel: (604)270-1991. “

  6. jofu

    Hey Ben and all repliers,

    The 7 course beef meal CAN be found in Vancouver. I remember a place called Tu Noi on Hastings had it, and it was quite famous. But then they closed down and then reopened on Nanaimo and 1st. Unfortunately, they closed down and are no longer in business.

    I will try and find out the restaurant where our family orders 7 course beef meal for you guys.

    A little background on this 7 course beef meal. We usually only take out 1 of the 7 courses because we find 4 of the other courses are not worth the price, and that 2 of the courses my mom can make. The one that we take out are the tiny beef sausages because it’s quite hard to make. The other 2 that my mom makes is quite simple. It’s basically just sliced beef, and cooked either in a vinegar-y broth, or korean bbq-ed. That’s it. The secret of the meal is with the sauce. If I am not mistaken, the sauce that you have in your 5th picture has a fishy taste? It’s not the same fish sauce that you would put in Pho or something. It’s pronounced “mum”. In my house of 7, only me and my mom can stand this sauce. We just wrap the meat rice paper with vermicelli and different vegetables.

    Well that was a long post! Hopefully it helped.

    P.S. If you like Bong Bo Hue (A spicy broth with vermicelli and usually served with a piece of pork hock, some pork blood), you HAVE to try Song Huong on Nanaimo and 1st (across from 7-11). They recently opened there, but their old restaurant is also on Nanaimo, but on Broadway across from Bon’s (I think it’s closing soon though).

  7. Alice

    Hey Ben,

    A friend of mine sent me your link and I was pleasantly surprised to see how awesome it is. Those pictures you took actually looks very good considering you were practically in the dark. I can just imagine how great the food was. I’ll definately try it the next time I’m in the States.

    About a year or so ago, I was at a Viet. restaurant that also serves the 7 course beef meal. The restaurant is located on the corner of Kingsway and Fraser. If you are travelling from MetroTown going on Kingsway heading towards Kingsway Honda Regency, it will be on your right hand side right. Make a right turn at the intersection of Kingsway and Fraser. Once you make a right, there will be an island, so you gotta make a U turn and it is across the street from a plaza that has a shop called Ba Le (a place where they sell Viet. sandwiches), a Roger’s video. etc… I don’t know if it’s still there, but I remember the food being pretty decent, however, the atmosphere is nothing like the Tamarid Tree in Seattle.


  8. Ben

    Hi Alice: Glad to know you enjoy chowtimes … and do appreciate the feedback too. Anyway, I think I know the restaurant you’re referring to but just can’t pin point the name. You know, I think there is a market for an upscale Vietnamese restaurant the style of Tamarind Tree in Vancouver.

  9. LotusRapper

    Rick, wow someone who knows and remembers ONA on Cornwall. That was a great spot, in fact I was dating my wife at the time and we ate there numerous times. I’m especially fond of the “poulet maman” or something dish where the rice, chicken, lemongrass, mushrooms and numerous other goodies were cooked in a claypot and brought to your table. Mmmm…

  10. Rick

    I remember that hotpot chicken dish. That was excellent. Although my all-time favourite was the drunken duck. If I could only find something comparable in Vancouver today, I’d be there in a heartbeat.

  11. Vinh

    My mother is the main chef there. I get to eat her cooking everyday. I feel so lucky, but working there is really hard work. I can never handle working there. They also just remodel it again

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