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Where: 949 S. Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach, 954-428-8009
Credit cards: all major
Hours: lunch, dinner daily
Sound level: quiet
Bar: beer, wine
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Children's facilities: boosters, high chairs
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Now that we're pad Thai-wise, it's easy to appreciate a restaurant such as Tamarind -- one that impresses with sophisticated decor, then flatters us with wonderful food and gracious service.
This rare find offers an Asian grill, great sushi and excellent Thai cuisine. The adventure begins the minute you walk through intricately carved teakwood doors into the main dining area awash in soothing beige and peach tones. Soft lighting adds a peaceful glow, and there are thoughtful flourishes and pretty decorator touches everywhere. To the left, a little brother of a dining room is home to a sushi bar, the more intimate of the two eating areas.
Browse the menu and you'll find it easy to fall back on the familiar. To prove it, there's excellent jumping squid ($7.25) and lacy tempura ($4.95- $6.95).
What's even better is to step outside the box into the unusual. Consider Thai fries ($5.95) -- cuts of boniato (a sweet potatolike root) dunked in fresh coconut batter and flash-fried for a soft, sweetly mellow interior cocooned within in a golden brown, crisp crust. They're great plain, but a perky vinegar-based peanut sauce adds dimension.
Yakitori ($1.25-$2.25) takes on new meaning and is available with fish balls, shiitakes, chicken livers, green mussels, smelts, veggies, or my favorite, quail eggs (a treat prepared to order, but worth the wait). First, three Lilliputian eggs are boiled impeccably so the yolks stay soft. Then, they're peeled and threaded whole onto wooden skewers. Precise grilling maintains the slightly runny yolks, as the whites pick up grill marks.
Trade in your usual Thai salad for refreshing papaya salad ($6.25), soft green papaya strips, shrimp, lime juice and crushed peanuts -- accessorized by grape tomatoes and freshly fried pork rinds.
Chiangmai ($8.95), a noodle dish that's almost a soup, is guzzle time in a bowl with creamy curry broth bubbling under wavy thin egg noodles, chicken breast chunks and zingy fresh cilantro. Delicious on its own, even better with accoutrements of pickled cabbage, fresh bean sprouts, roasted chilies (cut tiny to save palates from smoldering), onions, and fresh squeezed lime. Other curries ($8.95-$20.95) -- red, green, masaman and panang served with roti -- are as incendiary as you wish and terrific.
The kitchen does a grand job with hot and spicy fish ($18.95 for whole snapper; $16.95 for tilapia fillet). A dreamy crisp batter covers the sweet flesh bursting with juices while the piece de resistance -- thick red chili sauce -- has the rare combination of heat and flavor.
Tender boneless duck ($17.95) is fried for crunchiness, swathed with mushrooms, snow peas, pineapple, carrots and celery.
Grilled items are sure-fire winners, from fresh veggies ($8.50) and sea bass ($18.95), to filet mignon in mushroom garlic sauce ($17.95). They're ready for dipping into a saucy trio (creamy peanut, thick teriyaki sweetened by apples and gentle wasabi cream). As if all that wasn't enough, every piece of sushi we sampled brought rave reviews.
This is one Asian restaurant without a dessert anti-climax. Don't miss soothing warm sticky rice with Thai custard ($3.50), a mesmerizing steamed dish that's not too sweet, or, a more savory than sweet sticky rice with black beans afloat on warm coconut milk ($3.50). Have fresh ripe tamarind ($4) when available and dive into the odd looking brown pods for a hands-on, intriguing encounter. It's a fitting end to a totally engaging experience.
Please phone in advance to confirm information on hours, prices, menu items and facilities. For review consideration, please fax a current menu that includes name and address of restaurant to 954-356-4386 or send to Sun-Sentinel, 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301-2293.
If you would like to contact dining correspondent Judith Stocks, e-mail her at judithstocksreviews@yahoo .com or write to her in care of the Sun-Sentinel.