Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto has welcomed a fresh disciple to the flock: a newcomer by the name of Tigerlily. The restaurant quietly opened last week in the former location of Indian restaurant Mint Leaf, serving a mash-up of Indian and Asian flavor profiles with an ingredient-centric NorCal twist.
Inside Scoop reports that the restaurant's stealthy opening was all part of the master plan of partners Deepak Aggarwal (Mint Leaf, Khana Peena) and the Farm League Design & Management Group (East Bay Spice Company, Westbrae Biergarten). Joel DiGiorgio, co-owner of Farm League, explained that the team wanted to "introduce [themselves] to the neighborhood, and leave room for flexibility in the vision," as they quietly renovated the interior over five months.
That vision is a dynamic one, featuring a constantly changing daily menu from chef Joel Lamica, who signed on as chef after consulting on the bar menu and falling in love with the ambitious project. Lamica's menu spans the globe, referencing his stints in the East Bay kitchens of Ramen Shop and Pizzaiolo and San Francisco's Nojo and Bix. "The cool thing is that I would have never done this on my own," says Lamica. Expect dishes like buttermilk, turmeric, and hot sauce-marinated fried chicken served with collard greens, which reads Southern but comes out more like a tikka masala. The restaurant also held onto Mint Leaf's tandoori oven, facilitating dishes like a tandoori squid appetizer on black squid-ink naan. The restaurant has a full bar, complete with vintage Indian films showing on the flat-screens, as well as a menu of cocktails like the Clone War, with chamomile-infused gin, grapefruit, lime, and sea salt.
Lamica says that while the restaurant's proximity to Alice Waters' Chez Panisse is inspiring, Tigerlilly's goal is to bring something "a little younger and more experimental to the table." However, they continue to share the same goals as their predecessor, sourcing local ingredients from the Berkeley farmer's market and DeGiorgio's family farm in Sonoma. There are even plans to add an edible garden to the roof, complete with morning yoga classes. Many of their ingredients will be made in-house, like pickles, cheese and yogurt.
While no official launch party is planned, the team behind Tigerlily plans to keep evolving, implementing lunch in the next week with morning coffee and light breakfast to follow. (For now, hours are Wednesday-Monday, 5:30-10:30 pm.) Says DeGiorgio, "We're shooting for the stars."