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Omnivore - Tiny Cardamom Hill opens with intriguing menu, ambitious cocktails

Cardamom Hill has odd layout, intriguing menu

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Sorry, folks, but I won't be able to say much about the food at this much-anticipated new South Indian restaurant, which opens to the paying public tonight. Sadly, I was only able to sample a couple of the signature-dish small bites that were on offer at last night's media preview. But I can say I'm curious enough to want to return for a regular meal there, if only to see how such an odd little dining room works for dinner.

I was surprised to find Cardamom Hill located in a small, strip center storefront a couple doors down from the Little Azio at Northside Drive and I-75. To overcome this liability, owners Asha and Bobby Gomez had much of the dining area walled in with rustic wooden room dividers. As a result, the place has only 54 seats. Will that seem claustrophobic or cozy? Last night was not terribly representative, so I'm afraid I can't say.

As usual, I beat a path to the bar — not simply because drinks were free, but because the barkeep is the dapper Brian Stanger, who's mixed at Abattoir, Top Flr and, most recently, the new Bourbon Bar at the Intercontinental. He jumped at the chance to work at this tiny newcomer, he says, because he'd been itching to have carte blanche to run his own bar program, and because he hankered to use exotic fruits that would earn weird looks in most bars.