Friday, March 14, 2014



It's hard to find great restaurants that offer gluten free options.  For me, it's not a choice, but a necessity.  If a restaurant cross contaminates my food with gluten, I may have an unpleasantly upset stomach and a lethargic attitude for a week.   So I have to find restaurants that either offer a gluten free menu, that make everything to order and can modify my meal on demand, or I have to cook my meal myself. Last night I dined at Tamari in Lawrenceville. Their website says Tamari means "to do everything with passion" and I can get down with that sentiment.   

Tamari is a charming little spot in trendy Lawrenceville, located at 3519 Butler St.  A cute gated patio is at the enterence and would be a wonderful spot when the weather gets warmer.  Inside, the lighting is dim, but cozy.  There's not many tables in the place; I counted about ten tables that were mainly two tops.  I'm told they have more dining upstairs, but on a week night, they contain their seating to the main dining area.  There was plenty of seats at the bar slash open kitchen, but none were empty.  A reservation is recommended.  

I looked over the menu. It was mainly tapas Asian fusion creations and sushi.   I was greated by a friendly server and I asked if they had a gluten free menu or if he could help me find some gluten free options on the menu.  He told me there wasn't a gluten free menu but he would help me with my selection after I ordered a drink. I ordered a glass of Sofia Mini champaign.

I drink a lot of champaign. It's always gluten free and I don't have to worry. And I like the taste. The champaign arrived in a mini can. This was odd, but I ordered it and would obviously drink it.  

The server poured the sparkling beverage into a fluke with a lemon twist in it. It made the whole drink taste lemony.  I think they were trying to make it more fancy.  If given the opportunity, I'd drink it again regardless of the can.

The server pointed out a few gluten free items and a few obviously not gluten free items on the menu and I sent him to double check on the mushroom sauté.  Upon his return, he relayed that the mushrooms are gluten free. I asked if the crab in the California rolls was real, but to my disappointment, it was fake which has gluten in it.  So I chose the mussel perpetration of the day, the mushroom sauté, and the Asian tamales. I was excited to find out what Asian tamales would be like.

After a reasonalable amount of time, the mushroom sauté and mussels arrived at the table.  The mussels were a bit small, but not chewy. They were prepared in a tomato basil sauce that was chunky like marinara on the top and a thin sauce that had drained to the bottom.  The sauce was heavy on the basil, which was alright with me because I like basil far more than I like tomatoes.  It scarred me a little that toast came on the side.  It was, however, on a separate plate.

The mushrooms were a mix of shiitake, hon shimeji, quinoa, watercress, mojo, and chili oil. The mix of soft mushrooms and little crunchy bits was a pleasant texture in my mouth, but I thought they had too much of a peppery kick.  On the side of the plate was orange sauce swirls.  The passion was in the presentation.

I was a bit afraid that these swirls wouldn't be gluten free, so I steered clear of them, eating around them. I've been burnt by sauces and dressings before. It's better to be safe than sorry. 

The server came back to tell me he was sorry the Asian tamales were not gluten free.  This was okay with me; I'd rather have the kitchen catch a non gluten free item and tell me I can't order it than have them serve me something that will make me sick. So I picked the Scottish salmon and beef tenderloin with the teriyaki sauce (not gluten free) on the side from the robata grill section.  I was told everything from the robata grill could be made gluten free.

Both skewers were small. I mean really small. The salmon was one bit of delicious fish, but left me wanting something more.  The beef tenderloin was almost the perfect amount of rare in the middle, yet still very tasty.  I saw less passion in the robata grilled items, as they were very plain, but maybe that was because they were careful making them gluten free.

I was still hungry. I ordered a ahi tuna sushi roll. I was told there was no ahi tonight and it was substituted with another high grade tuna, one of which I didn't recognize.

While waiting, a different server reset the table with new plates, chopsticks, soy sauce dishes, and soy sauce in a little pitcher.  Soy sauce is not gluten free and I know this, while tamari is a gluten free soy sauce. I found it odd that a place named Tamari didn't have any Tamari for their sushi or sauces. 

The tuna roll arrived and satisfied my hunger.  The roll was cut into six slices and they were a normal proportion compared to most sushi rolls.  the seaweed wrapper was crisp, but not flaky and easy to chew.  Ginger and wasabi garnished the place.  Then the meal was complete.  

The server offered dessert. The creme brûlée flavor was chocolate mint. I passed due to the possibility of barley powder in the chocolate.  

I would know if I've been glutened within a few hours. I think it's safe to say, Tamari can successfully cater to people who have gluten free needs.  Thanks Tamari, I'll return!

Tamari on Urbanspoon

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