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Club Life

546 University Ave., Palo Alto; 1.650.325.8500; www.tamarinerestaurant.com

By Jim Harrington

Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm daily; dinner 5:30-9pm Sun-Thu; 5:30pm-10pm Fri-Sat
Amenities: Full bar, full dinner and lunch menu, art exhibits, specialty martinis, notable wine list, art gallery

LIKE STRAITS on Santana Row, the bar scene at this gorgeous New Vietnamese restaurant is drawing nearly as much buzz as the food. It attracts the type of crowd that doesn't mind paying top dollar for a properly made cocktail or something different. And Tamarine, which has been open since late 2002, definitely offers that. The downtown Palo Alto bar serves an intriguing mix of specialty martinis like the Cyclo (lemon-grass vodka and gin), the Spring Essence (lime vodka) and the Mandarin Drop (mandarin vodka, orange Curacao, lemon and orange rind). Tamarine also has a sensational wine list, which is driven by the cuisine.

But the drinks are only part of the appeal. Thanks to the savvy design work of the Engstrom Group, which also did San Jose's A.P. Stump's, Tamarine greets patrons with a look that is both sophisticated and earthy. It screams 21st-century Silicon Valley chic with its uncluttered lines and darkly stained woods and whispers softly in regard to the origin of the cuisine (note the natural bamboo at the long bar).

There's plenty of eye candy at Tamarine--and we're not talking Palo Alto hotties. The place features a gallery displaying the works of emerging artists from regional areas throughout Vietnam. If you see something you like, tell an employee. Much of the art is eventually auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting organizations as La Maison Chance, a home for orphaned children in Saigon, and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Tamarine's current exhibit of contemporary Vietnamese art includes a collection of eight paintings with works on paper, canvas and lacquer. Featured artists include impressionist Le Loc, neorealist Le Tuong and abstract artist Luong Dung.

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From the April 7-14, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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