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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tigerlily in Berkeley Brings a Hit of India to California Cuisine

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2015 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge The "Strawberry Blonde" from the punch bowl section of  Tigerlily's cocktail menu is not to be missed. - ALIX WALL
  • Alix Wall
  • The "Strawberry Blonde" from the punch bowl section of Tigerlily's cocktail menu is not to be missed.

How fun is it to get what’s called a “Strawberry Blonde” from the “punch bowl” section of a cocktail menu, and be served a fruity elixir from a true antique punchbowl, complete with mismatched glasses?

And if the drink has strawberries so boozy they’ve turned light pink, and there are rose petals and mint leaves floating on top? With the right amount of ginger and lime to cut through the sweetness, the vodka, rose syrup, and Prosecco concoction at Berkeley's Tigerlily hit all the right notes, including the visuals. Although it looked incredibly girly, we were wowed at first sip — and without even trying, impressed our server with how quickly the four of us made it through the entire bowl. (In our defense, the punch bowl was only about a quarter full to begin with.)

Tigerlily is located in North Berkeley’s famed Gourmet Ghetto, and therefore as any restaurant in that location must, it takes its sourcing from local farms seriously. On the way to the bathroom, one can stop and admire the full wall of colorful glass jars with their various pickling projects inside. Succulents abound, as does shiny green fabric on the ceiling, giving it an of–the-moment vibe.

Describing its approach to California cuisine as “Indo-Asian” means you won’t find the usual Indian staples on the menu — although Indian spices and concepts, definitely. For instance, their fried chicken is spiked with turmeric and served with a tikka masala sauce on the side. Not traditional in the slightest, but who cares? And Tigerlily's naan is made with squid ink, lending the Indian staple that deep black color but also its unmistakable salty flavor.

An appetizer plate with a hunk of chicken liver pate — smooth and delicate, almost a bit too much so for this reviewer raised on the chunky, in-your-face Jewish variety — was served with chapati (Indian flatbread), house-made St. Benoit cheese and cilantro chutney, to give a further example, which made for a fun interplay of tastes and textures. We also tried a trout in coconut curry and a vegetable plate with an egg, neither of which resembled anything we had ever tried before, but were stunning and mouthwatering plates of food.

If there’s a complaint to be made, perhaps a bit more heat to some dishes would be appropriate, as when in that part of the world, one expects a certain chili-to-food ratio to be present. It’s also on the high-end, with some plates costing as much as $28. (And, oh God, if you click on the link, the site will play techno.) But this was a meal with one surprise after another, and its creativity in the kitchen was duly noted by these diners.

Tigerily1513 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-540-7900.

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About The Author

Alix Wall

Alix Wall

Alix Wall is an Oakland-based freelance writer and certified natural foods chef. Her web site is


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