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Restaurant Reviews

Tambourine's Too Tired

How long should a new restaurant be open before it can be reviewed fairly? If the Gypsy’s Tambourine is any sort of yardstick, two months is way too soon.

Much like Colors, the Tambourine promises uniqueness. To bolster this claim, the restaurant offers live entertainment, jewelry and boutique items for sale, a proprietor with a vivid sense of self, and a theme of breathtaking weirdness.

And why the gypsy theme? Difficult to tell, really. Owner Sherry Maxine, a New Yorker who works the two rooms of the 60-seat restaurant, has tried to answer that reasonable question in a poem. Slipped under the glass of each tabletop, the seven-stanza work’s last four lines give you an idea: “ ...The tambourine keeps your pace in life/Keeps you healthy and well/Searching for your tambourine in your sleep/Is better than not finding it at all.... ”


The gathering room leads you into the attractive dining room, lit like a ’40s MGM musical. On the walls are tambourines and classic rock memorabilia like concert posters of Kiss and Genesis. The Tambourine’s publicity flyer explains that these artifacts come from the collection of Maxine’s brother, Gary, a “police officer who passed away last year and who loved rock music.”

On the small stage at the end of the room you’ll find Latin music (Thursday night) or blues and classic rock (Friday and Saturday nights). On a recent Friday evening, capable entertainer Mark Morin played soft acoustic guitar, singing hits from Emerson, Lake & Palmer, George Strait, and James Taylor. The small audience carried on a dialogue with Morin, threw out requests, and made the room come alive.

All would be well at the Tambourine if it had a full (or even partial) liquor license (a complimentary glass of beer or wine is served with each dinner). And if it didn’t serve food.

There really is no excuse for the results from the kitchen. Attributing the mismanagement to the Tambourine’s relative newness is a red herring. The menu is limited and straightforward, so difficulty with recipes can’t be to blame. To go into detail about why the loaded nachos ($7.95) were missing half their ingredients, why the chicken quesadilla ($7.95) could have been patented by Goodyear, or why both the entrées I tried — the grouper Française and chicken Tambourine ($24.95 for dinner for two) — would have failed a first-year cooking class, is to beat a dead horse.

But I’ll try anyway. According to the menu, the signature chicken was served “Bangkok style.” Exactly where in that city of wonderful flavors these harshly marinated and over-grilled slices of what was once white meat would ever be served shall remain one of life’s mysteries. The accompanying vegetables had a suspicious steam-table quality, and the mashed potatoes were as lumpy as a camp-cabin mattress. (In the most egregious act of self-promotion since the Bush girls’ appearance at the Republican convention, the chef kept entering the dining room and sitting down with patrons in a Gypsy’s Tambourine T-shirt bearing the logo “Great Food.”)

Two guileless waitresses personified the idea “nice is not enough.” Their sweetness did not obscure the fact that they had no idea what was on the menu, what was available in the kitchen, or what details — like forks — would be helpful to diners. Of course, they’re not to blame for lack of training — though why the first waitress left in the middle of our meal to go “deal with her landlord” might lead management to question her commitment.

That same management should be taken to task for delivering so poorly on such a promising idea. Fort Lauderdale needs just the kind of “uniqueness” in its dining landscape that Sherry Maxine wants to offer. But people don’t need to get nauseated in an attempt to experience it.

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D.B. Tipmore

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