Photo: Tigerlily
The former Mint Leaf space on the street side of Epicurious Garden in the Gourmet Ghetto has been remodeled and is now open as Tigerlily restaurant. Photo: Tigerlily

Tigerlily, a new restaurant that puts an Indo-Asian twist on Californian cuisine, has opened in the former Mint Leaf space at 1513 Shattuck Ave. in the heart of the Gourmet Ghetto.

Currently in soft-open mode, the warm, low-lit restaurant was buzzing on Friday night with a greeter escorting curious walk-ins to their tables (the restaurant doesn’t take reservations). As a pre-official opening gesture, wait-staff offered complementary platters of Kabocha Squash and Turmeric Fry Bread to guests waiting for their main courses.

Chef Joel Lamica is running the kitchen. Formerly of Bix and Nojo in San Francisco, and, more recently, the Ramen Shop in Rockridge, Lamica’s menu is described as being inspired by produce from the local farmers market and from the restaurant’s own organic farm in Sonoma County, as well as whole spices sourced from Tigerlily owner Deepak Aggarwal’s spice-farm network in northern India.

Winter radishes from river dog farms, house made creme fraiche, black pepper and San guilliano extra virgin organic olive oil, pickled rainbow carrots at Tigerlily. Photo: Tigerlily
Winter radishes from River Dog farms, house-made crème fraîche, black pepper, San Guiliano extra virgin organic olive oil, and pickled rainbow carrots at Tigerlily. Photo: Tigerlily

The current menu (dinner only for now) includes such offerings as Tandoori Squid on Squid Ink Naan with Hazelnut Salsa Verde and Ginger; Thrice Cooked Porchetta with Apple Butter Glaze, Rainbow Chard, Butternut Squash and Herbs; and “Oh No You Didn’t” Fried Chicken with House-Made Tikka Masala Sauce. Sides include Meyer Lemon Congee; and Asian Pear, Fried Brussels Sprouts, Natalie’s Ponzu and Shichimi. Crispy pickled vegetables make regular appearances, and there’s Olive Oil Tea Cake or Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème for dessert.

“Our ethos at Tigerlily — what we call Tiger Style — is to embrace the challenge of cooking delicious organic food that uses every ingredient to its full potential, with as little waste as possible,” Lamica said in a statement. “We hope to offer an innovative and inspired menu that pays homage to our historic neighborhood, but in a fun and relaxed environment.”

A nice touch is the custom-made earthenware from Berkeley’s Sarah Kersten Ceramics on which the dishes are served. [Read Nosh’s story on Kersten, a sauerkraut fan whose handmade fermentation crock helped her launch her business.]

The wine list, which focuses on small producers and organic pours, is being overseen by sommelier Justin Sutton, currently of Corso and Rivoli. The restaurant emphasizes its full, “garden-inspired” craft cocktail program managed by Polina Kharnas, who used to work at Polite Provisions in San Diego. There are long refreshing drinks and punch bowls, as well as traditional tipples. The list includes a cocktail called the Michael’s Pollen (Sonoma rye whiskey, local ginger honey and bee pollen, organic lemon, organic apple and allspice dram), a nod to the bestselling author and Cal professor who lives nearby.

Tea cake with blood orange marmalade, blossom bluff satsuma mandarins, blackberry coulis and foraged herbs. Photo: Tigerlily
Tea cake with blood orange marmalade, Blossom Bluff satsuma mandarins, blackberry coulis and foraged herbs. Photo: Tigerlily

Joel DiGiorgio and the Farm League Design & Management Group, the same team behind East Bay Spice Company on Oxford Street and Westbrae Biergarten, are the driving force behind the new restaurant. DiGiorgio said they decided on an extended soft opening to let local residents in North Berkeley get a chance to experience the new spot before announcing the opening officially.

“Moving forward, our goal is to create an establishment that fills some of the voids in the culinary and nightlife scene of our area, while also continuing the legacy of the Gourmet Ghetto as a bellwether for the sustainable food movement,” he told Berkeleyside.

Tigerlily is at 1513 Shattuck Ave. in the Epicurious Garden’s street-facing spot that used to house Mint Leaf. Tel: (510) 540 7900. Open: Wednesday-Monday 5:30-10:30. Closed: Tuesday. No reservations, walk-ins only. Connect with Tigerlily on Facebook and on Instagram.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...