Imran Ali

Chef Imran Ali is the executive chef of Tamarind of London, a restaurant that aims to serve authentic Indian food in a high-end setting.

Introducing a foreign cuisine to the U.S. market takes time, strategy and a standout concept. As executive chef of Tamarind of London, I’ve made it my goal to enhance and fine-tune the accessibility of the authentic Indian dining experience, from ingredients to menu design; it all plays a role in mainstreaming my vision to blend cultural authenticity with modern creativity.

As a bit of background, Tamarind of London is a member of the Tamarind restaurant group in Great Britain, which has received the Michelin star for each of the past 13 years. Tamarind of London is the first Tamarind location in the U.S. striving to parallel the success seen in the UK.

With Tamarind of London being the first concept on the West Coast to deliver authentic Indian food and dining in a high-end setting, I embrace the challenge to introduce guests to who we are and what we serve. It also remains a priority to always meet the challenges of delivering authentic, high-end Indian food with a Michelin-starred heritage to a market that is largely new to this concept. Working to fine-tune the product to a local market has been a major accomplishment.

The key to making Indian cuisine mainstream in the U.S. is a deliberate effort to blend Indian and Euro-American food cultures to create a unique and satisfying dining experience. In the kitchen, I enjoy taking Indian food qualities with a unique flavor not found in any other cuisines and blending them with Euro-American elements. 

Traditional Indian dishes provide guests with great aromas, hot and spicy flavors, irresistible bread and meals that people can share. Combining all of these elements differentiates Indian cuisine from other foreign cuisines that are more mainstream in the U.S. In order to make these dishes and flavors more accessible to the U.S. market, I blend these elements with Euro-American food qualities such as whole cuts of meat and attractive plate styling.

Together, this blend gives guests a very familiar and "mainstream" feel when they enter and dine at our restaurant, without them having to compromise on the element of the authenticity of the Indian dining experience. This ultimately enables us to present a product that our customer will feel comfortable with, but still find very unique and full of character.

I enjoy paying homage to India’s flavorful traditional favorites while artfully integrating California’s robust selection of seasonal, fresh and sustainable ingredients in every dish. The menu is diverse — much like the Indian culinary scene — and offers a wide range of items suitable for every occasion, mood, appetite and palate.

A couple of my favorite dishes that are inclusive of these concepts are Tamarind’s tandoori sea bass and signature lamb chops. Both dishes are infused with Indian spices, which are even known to have aphrodisiac characteristics. These dishes both undergo a marinating process that lasts at least six hours and then are cooked to perfection in a 1000-degree tandoori clay oven. These high-end proteins truly encompass our vision of intertwining traditional flavors and contemporary twists.

Our efforts to mainstream this concept doesn’t just stop at our dishes; our efforts begin from the way we design our menus to the weeks of server training required by staff to gain a complete understanding of the cuisine. We pride ourselves in creating an atmosphere with engaging and intuitive design, personable service and overall cleanliness in the restaurant itself.

Tamarind of London has not been an overnight success and neither will be mainstreaming our concept. As we actively look to expand across the country, we continue to identify opportunities within the Indian food industry for high-end dining. Indian food is largely untapped in the United States, compared to other ethnic cuisines such as Mexican or even Chinese. I believe there is an opportunity for Indian food to be as popular as these cuisines, and it is Tamarind’s vision to accomplish this, especially in the competitive and unforgiving high-end dining space.

Tamarind of London is located at 7862 East Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA 92657.

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