Monday, March 16, 2015

Maine Monday Returns With Tiqa

It's hard to believe Memorial Day is just ten weeks away! We've had a cold, miserable winter and most of us haven't been motivated to leave the house. But now is the time to take advantage of longer days and (slightly) warmer temps and get to some of your favorite local restaurants before the tourists descend. In a little over three months those parking spots will disappear and we'll all be stuck wandering the Old Port in search of an empty table and a wait list that isn't two hours long.

Guaranteed to be hotter than a July afternoon in the Moroccan desert is the latest restaurant to open with the small plate and great cocktails concept, Tiqa. This pan-Mediterranean restaurant on Commercial Street has been open since February and is getting plenty of media and foodie buzz. Focusing on locally sourced foods flavored with exotic spices, Tiqa offers Portland a taste of distant lands where the thermometer never dips below freezing.

Pull up a cozy leather couch in the low lit lounge and order some cocktails and small plates while the kiddos are entertained by the view out the floor to ceiling windows. The mezze plate is perfect for sharing and comes with an assortment of Middle Eastern snacks like warmed pitted olives, cucumber slaw, hummus, baba ghanoush (eggplant) and plenty of pita bread.

For a real dinner treat ask for the seats in front of the kitchen bar, it's where all the action is. On the left (as you're facing the kitchen) it's nonstop movement and the kids will be mesmerized by the sizzling pans and dashes of colorful spices and sauces. We sat on the quieter side, the right side, opting to watch the breads and desserts being made by two talented and chatty ladies.

There might be a children's menu (it is in a Marriott hotel after all) but we didn't ask, both little C&Gs ordered kabobs (I think just so they could play with the skewers) and were very happy with their choices. They split the fattoush salad, mixed greens with torn pieces of pita bread, and ordered the chicken and beef kabobs. Neither dish was overly spicy and the boys liked the unusual flavors. Little C&G raved that the chicken was better than anything I've made him and I resisted challenging him to a skewered veggie dual.

After watching countless desserts make their way out of the kitchen we had to order the pistachio olive oil cake and the flourless chocolate cake. Dense, moist, and not overly sweet they were a tasty ending to our night out. We had a deliciously fun and unusual dinner at one of the most talked about places in town and we can definitely recommend Tiqa as a place to bring your adventurous kiddos. Grab a table soon (they're on OpenTable for reservations) and order some creative cocktails and exotic dishes to chase away this horrible winter.

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