Restaurant Review: Tiger + Lily
Tiger + Lily is the sort of place that makes you believe in the Downtown vision. It’s sleek, modern, and bustling with an attractive crowd. Hosts greet guests warmly in the streamlined space that holds small dining tables on one side and tall counter tables on the other. Suitable for both lone eaters and small parties, they munch on a menu that’s billed as Asian-inspired. At Tiger + Lily, that means delicate dishes that merge traditional aesthetic sensibilities with occasionally untraditional trappings.
Case in point, a favorite item thus far: A Kalbi Beef Salad Bowl ($11.95). The bowl is part of the menu wherein guests choose a base (salad or rice), a protein and a sauce. In opting for salad, the combo is based on a nest that features tender (and trendy) arugula. The greens are topped with savory slices of lean beef accented with sesame seeds, soft marinated red cabbage, shredded carrots, and thin slices of cucumber. The intense color palette, highlighted with glowing orange, green and magenta, makes the whole thing beautiful to behold. Mixed together, the elements merge harmoniously with a likable, atypically sweet yum yum sauce.
Other bowl options team chicken or tofu with sauces such as tiger salsa and gomayo, another creamy aioli. The latter teams well with LemonGrass Chicken ($9.95), complementing the flavors. Perched with the colorful array of vegetables atop the rice, the combo is almost as beautiful as the beef version.
The Tiger’s Tan Tan Ramen with Turkey ($12.95) is an interesting option, albeit less successful than the aforementioned bowls. The offering teams seasoned ground turkey and an egg in a traditional ramen host with nori and teeny shards of green scallions. The overall effect was less lovable than the bowls, with the dominant impression coming from ground turkey that is aggressively salty, saltier than even something like sausage, and the drippy white of an egg that never did fully “set.”
Pop Fries ($9.95) are a promising-sounding appetizer. They offer a conglomeration of a great deal of influences in one dish: waffle fries (a Midwestern favorite), parmesan (profoundly European), Korean-seasoned beef and kimchi. Together, the combo works surprisingly well. All the same, bites with all the toppings are scarce, and lots of fries end up naked. On the bright side, it’s a lovely opportunity to appreciate the artisanal accent on some meticulously cut waffle fries. On the downside, the price tag makes it feel like those fancy fries need better coverage. Sweet Potato Fries ($5.95) are also meticulously cut, fancy fries. Nicely seasoned, they’re a comparative bargain.
Outside the edible scene, Tiger + Lily also offers iced beverages that include lattes, fruit coolers, and milk teas, all of which can be ordered straight or with beads of bubbles (for a small upcharge). Orange Grapefruit Green Tea ($4.50) is relentlessly refreshing on a hot day.
You can find Tiger + Lily at 19 E. Gay St., the former Downtown home of Zen Cha Tea Salon. It opens at 11:30 a.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. on Saturdays (closed Sundays). It closes early at 3 p.m. on Mondays, but stays open until 9 or 10 p.m. the rest of the week.
For more information, visit tigerandlilybistro.com.