Tiqa – Takea Piqa Tiqa

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We visited the new Tiqa restaurant after once cancelling prior reservations, so I was anxious to check out the joint at the bottom of the Marriott on Commercial St. I’d been waiting for weeks. My first thought when I arrived was that it was absolutely enormous in there with two bars, a large dining room, and a spacious lounge. According to their website, there is also a patio and a large private dining area.

With separate dinner, wine, and drink menus, along with two friends joining us, I knew I had my work cut out for me.  I didn’t have enough brain power to spread out between conversation and multiple menus, so I had to focus extra hard on the drink selection in order to be ready when everyone else was. I squinted my eyes and tried to use some Jedi mind tricks to concentrate. After failing repeatedly, the Jedis worked their magic and I settled on a Dawa – Absolute Vodka, muddled lime, brown sugar, whipped honey stick. For just under six bucks, it sounded like a bargain. Everyone else ordered wine.

As we all continued to talk, I waited for my drink and tried to figure out what I wanted to eat. There were several items that appeared to suit my fancy. I wasn’t the only one; the entire table agreed to share a few apps. While finalizing our app orders, our drinks came out to greet us. My dawa made it’s introductions and I tried it on. With only a sip of the juice, I was taken away into a hidden land filled with vodka and lime, where vodka punched you in the face and lime soothed your every fear. It was a beautiful land where brown sugar and honey on a stick sang a sweet serenade in the background. The drink was a delicious concoction, but not one for the feint of heart as the upfront vodka injection created for a not-so-subtle awakening.

Our waitress soon returned and we found ourselves agreeing to share three appetizers. First, I chose the Broccolini Frito Misto – pickled mustard seed, tomato mustard, farmer’s cheese. We followed that up with the Falafel- chickpea fritters and purée, cucumber-tahini – and Hummus – sesame, garlic, olive oil, pita. Once those orders were placed, we attempted to choose some main courses.

At about the same time we place our entree order, we were presented a plate with three types of bread. They came with Olive oil and zaatar, which is a combination of Middle Eastern spices. I dug in. They were all excellent with both the oil and a generous sprinkle of the spice. We ate bread and participated in table-wide discussion about the topics of the day, including King Missle, milk thistle, and dog whistles. Right in the middle of our dog whistle discussion, the bread came to a timely demise and we all simultaneously salivated at the thought of our apps.

It wasn’t but a snap of the fingers before our starters joined the empty bread platter on the table. Without hesitation, I slapped everyone else’s hands out of the way and dove my paws into the fray of food. I jumped at the broccolini and cut off a piece to throw between my jaws. I was sure to get a full sampling of the veg, a piece of the cheese, and a dab of the red tomato mustard sauce that accompanied it. I was quite pleased at the result. The mustard seed was evident and gave a slightly tangy flavor. The cheese was a nice addition. The sauce was good, but not necessary as the rest of the course was so good without it.

After downing a piece of the broc, I dug into the hummus. It was a good offering and had a bit of zest to it – quite flavorful. It was standard or better and definitely worth the order. I tried the falafel which was fine, but I am not a huge fan of falafel, so I focused mainly on the broccolini. The more I ate the green stuff, the more I liked it. It was an outstanding take on a simple item. Everyone seemed to enjoy the apps with each eater having their own favorite.

When all the food was gone, some of the table ordered more wine and we waited for our meals. They didn’t take long to show though and my wife and I were brought orders of Sayadeya – Pan-seared hake, tomato vinaigrette, basmati rice, almonds, and fried chickpeas. One of our table-mates ordered Fattoush Bread Salad – pita, mixed greens, cucumber, tomato, sumac vinaigrette – and two kabobs – Cilantro-Yogurt Marinated Chicken with zucchini and tomato and Tzimmes Marinated Beef with eggplant, green onion, and tomato. There was also an order placed for a salmon special. I took a good look at everyone’s food and decided it was the right time to attack mine.

My hake was well-seared and set on a bed of the rice surrounded by triple tomato and several chickpeas. The plate was drizzled with a bit of the tomato vinaigrette. It looked good, and upon tasting, I determined that it was indeed worthy of my consumption. The light fish mingled with the seasoned rice to create a delicious dance. The chickpeas were crispy and combined with almond slices to give some crunch. The vinaigrette added a tiny bit of acid. It was an easy-to-eat dish – not heavy, but still hearty.

The salmon at the table looked as pleasing as the hake and the salad looked good too, but I was particularly impressed by the kabob presentation.  The kabobs came with cucumber sesame salad and spiced basmati rice. It looked like a significant amount of food and I imagined that as my meal on my next visit. The combination of meat and vegetables on a stick with the salad and rice just seemed a perfect combination and it appeared to be enjoyed.

In the court of Peterpeterportlandeater, my final verdict was satisfaction. The food was fresh, delicious, and well-presented. The service was great. The final cost wasn’t cheap at about 60 bucks each after tip, but that did include seven drinks, so the food wasn’t any higher than other Portland restaurants of Tiqa’s caliber. I liked it quite a bit and can’t help but notice that Portland suddenly has quite a Mediterranean restaurant scene popping up. I think they can definitely all safely survive as long as they continue to provide great food and service. I give my seal of approval to any restaurant that has those qualities and Tiqa definitely does.

Stay hungry.

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