First Taste: The modern Indian fare is fire at the Marina's new Tiya
(Neetu Laddha)

First Taste: The modern Indian fare is fire at the Marina's new Tiya


The warm aroma of spice encircles Tiya like invisible armor. Even before I’ve opened the restaurant’s door, it reaches out and pulls me inside with the strength of a thousand armies.

The reputation of the chefs at Tiya, the Marina’s new contemporary Indian restaurant, precedes them, too. West Bengali brothers Pujan and Sujan Sarkar cooked their way across the world before both landing in San Francisco in 2017, at the then-unknown restaurant, Rooh. Their creative, contemporary cuisine was so good, both the Sarkars and their investors, Good Times Restaurant LLC (Alora, Pippal, Fitoor), commanded the city’s attention.

When a new restaurant was proposed for the Chicago area, Sujan went to lead the team while Pujan held down the fort in their adopted home. It wasn’t long, though, before Sujan struck out on his own. At his next project, the Indian and French mashup Indienne, it was Chicago’s turn to sit up and take notice. But they weren’t the only ones. The restaurant quickly earned a Michelin star and a 2023 best new restaurant nod from Bon Appetit. James Beard named him as a semifinalist for the Best Chef: Great Lakes award.

Artichoke and celeriac galouti at Tiya.(Neetu Laddha)

Now the two are back to the city where it all, if not exactly began, flourished. Both have a hand in Tiya, but this time it’s Pujan’s turn to take the helm—and he’s got his eye on a Michelin star of his own.

Tiya resides in the space once occupied by Maybecks, the Marina mainstay that abruptly closed after a renovation last year. But what was Maybecks' loss is the Sarkars gain.

The new restaurant slipped seamlessly into the space, which revolves around a show-stopping bar with a swanky midcentury vibe. Tropical greens and blues, tones evoking eastern India’s native parrot, dominate the back dining room where the wallpaper is covered in birds and colorful blooms, and oversized velvet booths line the wall. A glass-walled wine cellar and Victorian-inspired metallic ceiling tiles are elegantly incongruous with the bar’s mosaic tile floor and framed works by Indian artist Saurav Das.

The meal begins boldly, with cocktails with a culinary twist. I’ve never quite had anything like the North Beach, a martini that involves infusing sourdough starter and parmesan cheese with liquid nitrogen over 48 hours. It’s tangy and bright, like bruschetta in cocktail form. My partner goes with a Castro Valley, a hearty, spirit-forward bourbon drink made with BBQ clarified butter and heather honey that is sweet and bitter and June-gloom cozy.

The front room and show-stopping bar at TIYA.(Neetu Laddha)

Our reservation is for the tasting menu, a four-course feast that’s surprisingly affordable at $90 per person. But a la carte is also an option here, with a menu that includes most of the options on the tasting and much much more (think tandoori avocado with green chickpea hummus and a dosa crisp, and artichoke and celeriac galouti with ghewar and yellow pepper puree).

We are primed with a palate-awakening pani puri, a crispy Robin’s egg into which Sarkar pours passion fruit water. It’s topped with edible flowers from Hawk Creek Farm, an educational farm in Glen Park at which he volunteers and partners for seasonal tidbits. “You eat the whole thing at once,” he tells us, and just like a shot of spirits, it quickens my heart with its heat and acidity.

The first course comes with two options, a yogurt chat with sweet strawberry, tamarind, mint, and crispy potato shoestrings, or dry-aged hamachi bhel. Both are good, but the hamachi, with its velvety buttermilk-coconut sauce, wins the round.

Next up, a keema (minced curry) modeled after the one Sarkar’s mom made every week after soccer practice, with stewed goat for the younger generation and stewed jackfruit for the elders. “If I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know the jackfruit is not meat,” he laughs (in Tiya’s version, they’ve opted for lamb instead of goat), and he’s right. It's so meaty and rich, so perfectly seasoned, I almost wish I had a big vat of it to share (or not) family style. On the side is a gorgeous slice of babka, laced with masala spices instead of New York deli-style cinnamon.

Hamachi bhel is our favorite of the tasting menu's first course options.(Neetu Laddha)

For the main course, there’s gun powder seabass, butter chicken, or morel malai, a stuffed wild morel mushroom. The former and the latter are paired with a squash blossomed baby zucchini that’s been filled dumpling-style with massively addictive subcontinent-spiced ricotta. With them come a bowl of saffron rice, garlic naan that could win a beauty contest, and a delightfully smokey black dairy daal which has just four ingredients but takes longer than anything else on the menu to prepare: A full 11 hours. Supplements include artful tiger shrimp xec xec and a blintz souffle-like paneer bhurji roll with chili-peanut chutney.

We sip two of Tiya’s specialty gin and tonics—the bitter saffron-and-turmeric-laced Indian, and the citrusy tea and yuzu Japanese—as dessert finds its way to our table. Like my first drink, the tender coconut payasam is so unique, the closest thing I can compare it to is astronaut ice cream (my partner disagrees, that frizzle on the tongue, he says, is definitely in Pop Rock territory). Turns out, I’m mostly right. Sarkar uses liquid nitrogen to transform coconut mousse into cryo-coconut, little dehydrated boulders on which sits a scoop of sunchoke ice cream and coconut caramel. It's a rare take on molecular gastronomy that is actually as satisfying as it's supposed to be.

I’m probably too effusive about how good everything was when Sarkar comes to say goodnight over our graveyard of empty plates at the meal’s end, but clearly I’m not the first person to gush over Tiya since they opened three weeks ago (I’m not even the first person that night; I overheard the table next to us do the same thing about 45 minutes before).

Even though taking on a project with just his brother has been a new challenge, the vibrancy of the Marina has them hopeful for the future. Indeed, even after 10pm, people still linger at several of the tables that have been full all night. “We believe that San Francisco is coming back,” he grins. I couldn’t agree more.

// Open Tuesday through Saturday from 5pm to 10pm; 3213 Scott St. (Marina),

Tandoori avocado at Tiya.(Neetu Laddha)

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