[Editor’s Note: Since publication, it was brought to our attention that people found some of the language used in this review offensive. Baltimore regrets the lack of attention paid to our words and we explored the issues surrounding authenticity and appropriation in Asian food culture on a recent episode of our podcast.]
There’s a lot happening inside TigerStyle, the small Asian comfort food joint from the mind of Chad Gauss, chef and co-owner of the renowned Hampden restaurant The Food Market. Flames sporadically shoot toward the ceiling in the open kitchen as cooks flip sizzling vegetables in woks. Hip-hop music blares. Toilet paper, toothpaste, and candy line a shelf near the entrance, available for sale as a convenience to customers, while also adding a surprisingly artistic element.
Gauss and his partners—The Food Market’s executive chef Nick Pasco, former Food Market general manager Patrick Rainey, and La Food Marketa’s executive chef Johntay Bedingfield—had modest goals when they opened in an alley behind West 36th Street, a fortune cookie’s throw from the flagship restaurant. “We just want to have fun, please people, and not take it too seriously,” he told Baltimore before it opened in February.
He has succeeded. True to its name, TigerStyle oozes flair. Posters of artists such as Wu Tang Clan, whose song inspired the name, and classic movies like Back to the Future and Goodfellas line the walls of the tiny eating space, which has just one communal metal table with stools. Although many of the appetizers may look familiar to Americanized Chinese-food devotees, TigerStyle’s takes are unique.
The pork in its egg roll is ground with mushroom and cabbage. One is filling enough to constitute a mini meal on its own. Wonton soup bears no resemblance to the overly salty swill that’s far too common; its broth is clean and enhanced by plentiful spinach, mushrooms, and shrimp.
In contrast to the vegetable gyoza, shrimp toast, and Korean fried chicken wings, all of which we felt the kitchen fried the flavor right out of, the tempura cauliflower was subtly prepared with cashews, Thai basil, and honey. It elevated from very good to great when we dunked the large pieces in the accompanying curry turmeric dip. Most apps come with plastic tubs of house-made sauces that are varyingly tangy, creamy, spicy, and sweet, and make everything—much of which would be just fine on its own—even better.
Entrees are more free-form. Diners choose a base of white or brown rice, spinach, quinoa, or cauliflower rice, a protein, and a sauce, which includes vegetables. We went with shrimp and lobster sauce, which, according to the menu, is “actually really good chicken stock” with sherry, ginger, garlic, egg, soy, snow peas, and carrots. It lived up to its billing.
Three noodle dishes also are available. The street variety, prepared with crushed garlic, dried chiles, peanuts, scallion, ginger, and sambal, stood out. They were deliciously greasy and seriously spicy.
Every bag of carryout or delivery, which are the eatery’s focus, is stapled and slapped with a TigerStyle seal of approval sticker. We’ll attach one to the end of this review, too.
›› TIGERSTYLE 911-913 W. 36th St., 443-708-1037. Open 4-10 p.m. daily.