2010 Best New Restaurant: Tamari
Given the crowds, there’s not always a whole lot of elbow room, but then, that’s just part of what makes a “Best New Restaurant.”
Best New Restaurant
Add one Asian-meets-Latin menu with two restaurant pros—Tamari owner Allen Chen and executive chef Roger Li—and it equals exactly what this region needed: a lively new restaurant that brings something entirely new to the dining scene. Asian flavors and traditional preparations like sushi predominate on the menu, but the presentation is Latin, with a big selection of tapas-style plates.
Chen grew up in the local restaurant biz—his father started all the Sushi Too and China Palace restaurants in the region—but hit on the restaurant’s concept after falling in love with the cooking culture and street food of Mexico during time in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, where he met his wife.
Chen hit the jackpot in meeting chef Li, who moved to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia in 2005 to open a restaurant on the North Shore that’s now closed. Li’s strength is fusion cuisine, the result of growing up with a family that ran a Chinese restaurant and then working in a variety of restaurants from sushi to French to contemporary American.
That he loves working with fresh fish is clear from the menu’s many seafood-centric small plates, including nigiri, sashimi and ceviche. Classic Latin ingredients (chipotle, cilantro and fresh lime) are as evident as Asian ones like miso, yuzu and edamame.
Dozen Bake Shop, located next door, provides the restaurant’s desserts, such as a delicious green-tea coconut cake.
If the flavors at Tamari wake you up, so will the setting. The clean, contemporary two-floor space, designed by local firm Fukui Architects, includes counter seating by the lively open kitchen and an inviting bar. Given the crowds, there’s not always a whole lot of elbow room, but then, that’s just part of what makes a “Best New Restaurant.”
Owner Allen Chen and Executive Chef Roger Li: 3519 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/325-3435, tamaripgh.com.