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Food & Drink

A new high-end Indian restaurant in the Marina is worth every penny

Tiya's tiger shrimp is a killer. Plus: the Mission’s best neighborhood spot and a salad with a waterfront view.

shrimp in a sauce at Tiya
The tiger shrimp at Tiya is killer. | Source: Courtesy Neetu Laddha

This is All Things Consumed, a weekly column by The Standard’s eaters-at-large featuring three great dishes we’ve eaten and one cocktail we’d happily drink again and again.

Tiger shrimp ‘xec xec’ at Tiya

When my dining companion and good friend Meghna, a local Indian cooking school teacher, told the friendly chef and co-owner Sujan Sarkar that she deemed Tiya’s black lentil dal perfect—with just enough heat and complexity, just enough butter and cream—he was clearly pleased. The seemingly simple dish really is a testament to a cook’s supreme deftness.

The dal, with nary a garnish, is the most humble thing at this high-end “new Indian” restaurant. In May, Sarkar (whose Chicago restaurant Indienne has a Michelin star) and his brother and chef Pujan, threw the doors open in the Marina. The vibe here is opulent. The walls are painted a deep emerald green you could get lost in. The main dining room is decked with feminine floral wallpaper and mustard yellow banquettes. You will see jeans because we’re in San Francisco, but it is not a casual place. There’s a lot of formality: Servers pour things tableside, and the cocktails are complicated but delicious.

The dining room at Tiya in the Marina
The opulent dining room at Tiya in the Marina. | Source: Courtesy Neetu Laddha

Despite this, the food is actually soulful, with a bit of whimsy. Sit at the long bar and order a la carte: Keema, ground lamb with spices, comes with a poached egg and nest of crunchy shredded potato, all served with a light-as-air spiced brioche cleverly deemed a masala babka. A take on bhel, a classic chaat, is made with raw hamachi draped over young millet and served with a pool of tart buttermilk sol kadhi. But the real seductress is the South African tiger shrimp served in a umami-rich, oily and spicy slick of bedgi chili and miso with a gooseberry chutney. The above photo does not demonstrate its messy deliciousness. Request a piece of naan for sopping. —SD

💰 $24
📍 Tiya, 3213 Scott St., Marina, San Francisco

Carrot fattoush salad at Alora
The carrot fattoush salad at Alora is all crunch, color and texture. | Source: Courtesy Neetu Laddha

The carrot fattoush salad at Alora

A few minutes walk from the Ferry Building, this bright and airy waterside perch by longtime restaurateurs Vikram and Anu Bhambri is all about texture. The dining room incorporates a multiplicity of patterns and materials into a seamless whole—and so does the menu of mezzes, pastas and large plates helmed by Chef Ryan McIlwraith of Bellota and Coqueta fame. 

If you’re a vegetarian, Alora has endless temptations, including some bright and healthy options. I loved their take on muhammara, the zesty Middle Eastern red pepper-and-walnut dip. Here, it is showered with a crunchy topping of pomegranate seeds and spiced walnuts, as well as creamy feta, ready to be scooped up with a pleasantly sour pita. Two other must orders? The carrot fattoush salad—tossed with crunchy, toasted pita, chewy farro, tart blood orange, and more pomegranate—and the tender roasted octopus served with tzatziki, potato pavé and cauliflower escabeche. The cocktail offerings are equally delightful (don’t miss The Fruit of Desire with its Brucato chaparral, egg white and strawberry Metaxa), and there’s an equally attentive list of NA options for those headed for a dry summer. —JZ

💰 $17
📍Alora, Pier 3, Embarcadero

Beet salad with salsa macha and yogurt at 20 Spot
The secret to this salad at 20 Spot is the salsa macha. | Source: Courtesy of 20 Spot

Beets with avocado, yogurt and salsa macha at 20 Spot

I have a crush on 20 Spot. I’ve posted up solo at the beautiful, smooth bar—made of eucalyptus cured for a decade in a West Marin barn—more times than I can count. Surrounded by owner Bodhi Freedom’s collection of eclectic mid-century objects des arts, an evening often begins with a pour of Lambrusco, candlelight, and, spinning on the turntable, music you forgot you loved (Linton Kwesi Johnson, the Eels). It’s like having dinner at a friend’s house. A cool friend.

From the teeny hoodless kitchen, chef Alejandro Rodriguez and his chef-partner and wife, Marcella Lew, both formerly of Nopa, cook up an ever-changing farmers market menu of audaciously simple dishes. Last Friday, after a grueling day at work (see: Sushi Week), I lapped up a lovely halibut crudo with a cilantro-serrano chile broth served with a roly-poly spoonful of sweet spring peas. It tasted like the epitome of restraint, something chefs often grapple with. 

I also returned to one of my favorite 20 Spot salads: thick slices of avocado, sweet-earthy chunky beets, a tangle of bitter arugula and—the clincher—a swirl of plain yogurt and salsa macha, Mexico’s chile crisp. Rodriguez’s version is seedy and spiked with hazelnuts, currants, brown sugar and three dried Mexican chiles (morita, guajillo and puya). The good thing about eating so healthily for dinner? Dessert is your reward. In this case, a perfectly executed raspberry galette shared with the person sitting next to you who you just met. —SD

💰 $15
📍 20 Spot, 3565 20th St., Mission, San Francisco

The Night Owl cocktail at Polkcha
The Night Owl at Asian-market inspired Polkcha, the latest Russian Hill bar | Source: Astrid Kane for The Standard

The Night Owl at Polkcha

I love a strong drink, but if there’s one spirit that has always been a challenge for me to love, it’s baijiu, the Chinese liquor typically distilled from sorghum. It can be intimidatingly fiery, with an almost overpowering aroma, which may account for its relatively scant presence on cocktail menus around SF. (You can sometimes spot it at Cold Drinks, the upscale lounge inside China Live.) But when I set foot into Polkcha—the three-month-old Russian Hill bar—I knew I had to give baijiu another try.

The bar—inspired by Asian night markets—is named after a fusion of “pocha,” the Korean word for an outdoor food or drink stand, plus “Polk Street,” and is decorated with Maruchan instant noodle cups, a fake tree strung with paper lanterns and a painting of a robot with glowing eyes. Thankfully, the foamy Night Owl (rose-infused baijiu, vodka, lychee, lime and egg white) is almost tame, a soft expression of baijiu with some Angostura bitters for a dash of aromatics. Hardly in your face, it is a bird sure to soothe some feathers. —AK

💰 $14
📍Polkcha, 1750 Polk St., Russian Hill

Sara Deseran can be reached at
Astrid Kane can be reached at