I don’t usually venture out to Schenectady for dinner, but that needs to change – there are some real culinary gems in the City. One of those is Tara Kitchen, a small, unassuming restaurant on Liberty Street that consistently churns out superb food with bold Moroccan flavors. The restaurant is very small and they don’t take reservations, so getting a table for dinner can be challenging. But the food is certainly worth a bit of a wait.
For an appetizer, we opted for the dip made of eggplant, garlic, and tomatoes, served with pita bread. This dip is wonderfully thick and hearty, with a savory tomato base that is enhanced by the Moroccan spices and tender chunks of eggplant.
The entree selections are primarily a choice of slow-cooked stews that are prepared and served in tagines. In addition to the pre-set options, you can also “make your own” by selecting from protein options (chicken, lamb, fish, chickpeas, lentils), sauce options (apricot and prune, spicy date, tomato chermoula), and various vegetable additions (such as spinach, cherry tomatoes, olives, and artichoke hearts). Entrees are served with a small side of rice and some pita bread.
I chose the chicken with preserved lemons and green olives, which is one of my absolute favorite things on the menu. The sauce has vibrant citrus undertones from the preserved lemon, which is an ingredient that you don’t see used in many other restaurants. I also find this dish to be interesting because I am not someone who usually enjoys olives. Yet for some reason when all of the flavors combine, including the rich spices and the onions in this dish, the saltiness of the olives is a perfect touch.
Others in my group tried a new menu addition, the chicken with pomegranate molasses, almonds, and harissa. Harissa is a sauce used in many of the dishes at Tara Kitchen to impart a rich, smoky spice flavor to the food. I often find it to be a bit too spicy for my tastes, but when paired with the sweetness of the pomegranate molasses, the spice level seemed to be tamed.
And lastly, we all decided to try the baklava that is offered for dessert. After such an incredible appetizer and entree experience, the baklava was a little bit of a disappointment. The taste of the phyllo dough overpowered the intended honey sweetness, and in places it was a bit too dense, as if it was undercooked. This was definitely not the best baklava I’ve ever had, and it was a bit of a low note to end the meal on.
Dessert aside, everyone in our group loved their meal at Tara Kitchen. I am always a fan of places where the meals are saucy and allow you to dip lots of bread or pita into your meal. I also love the excuse to try new and different flavor profiles that you wouldn’t find at other restaurants in the area. Plus, it’s great to support a locally owned restaurant in a City like Schenectady, which desperately needs more successful businesses to draw in visitors and developers.
Final rating: 8.5/10. Based on the meals alone, this would have been higher, but the dessert took it down a notch. Still strongly recommended!