My relationship with Vietnamese restaurants has been indifferent at best. Most of the time, the food can't live up to my mother's. The rest of the time, the restaurants are trying to pull out some type of fusion menu that dilutes the greatness of the meals themselves (Le Colonial, I'm talking to you). So maybe it's because I'm like a woman scorned that when I went to Tamarind Tree--the glowing reviews already seeming too good to be true--that I quickly fell in love with the restaurant.
All the shortcomings of many other Vietnamese restaurants (ambience, menu, food quality) are erased at Tamarind Tree. Walking up the restaurant, I knew to expect something different, what with the outdoor patio's small waterfall. Inside, the decor was warm and intimate and designed well to hide the crowds that form outside. (Reservations are HIGHLY recommended on weekends. We managed an early Friday dinner and were seated pretty quickly, but when we left we were met with lines upon lines of people.) The tables are set pretty close together, but somehow it doesn't seem like you're seated at the same table as your neighbors even though you essentially are.
Despite the crowds, our waitstaff was attentive and prompt. Our appetizers (Tamarind Tree rolls and nem nuong rolls) came extremely quickly and were quite good (I preferred the Tamarind Tree rolls). We didn't try any of the drinks, although the list was long and full of delicious-sounding concoctions. After re-reading the menu a few times (SO many dishes I've been craving), we settled on lemongrass chicken and "morning glory garlic", their name for the water spinach/ong choi I love so much. Both, to my sheer delight, were perfect.
With that being my first visit--and in a small party of two--I didn't get a chance to sample much of the extensive menu. I can live with that; I know I'll be back.