So I have to admit, I haven't managed to write anything in a while. Well, yesterday I experienced a meal that basically forced me out of exile for this one post. You see, even though I work in Schenectady we have yet to really dip our toes in the culinary scene of that area for whatever reason (probably the 30 cent toll. Seriously thruway authority? It could've been a quarter, but that'd be too simple so let's throw the extra nickel in cause why not). Well having tried almost all the treasures the Albany/Troy region has to offer and craving something new, we decided to visit Tara Kitchen, a Moroccan restaurant just off of Erie Blvd in downtown Schenectady. Oh my goodness, was it the right decision at the right time.
I gather the food at Tara Kitchen isn't so much a meal as an experience, or maybe a journey. We started with the spicy grilled shrimp, served with a freaking divine Harissa sauce that managed to be both super spicy and super flavorful. I could barely feel my face for the fire, but I was in heaven with those first few bites. A few sips of honeyed mint green tea tamed the heat just long enough to dive in for more.
We also got the grilled fish seasoned with ras-el-hanout which you may think sounds like a boring sideshow to that shrimp, but somehow, despite lacking the assertiveness of the Harissa shrimp, it managed to be one of the best cooked and seasoned pieces of fish I've ever tasted and proudly stood beside its spicier costar. Then the main course arrived. My god. I confess I have no prior experience with Moroccan food, so I have no basis by which to call this authentic. Frankly, I also don't care. I ordered a lamb tagine with saffron, preserved lemon, and something called smen (which made me chuckle because I am 10, but turned out to be a salted, fermented butter). R ordered a chicken and artichoke hearts tagine with a spicy date sauce. They came out in heavy ceramic pots still boiling from the stove, and continued boiling for several minutes.
R loved her dish, and I confess the date sauce was both creative and very well executed, hitting those spicy sweet notes that had so impressed us in their appetizers. What stole my heart though was my lamb. It was easily the most tender, fall apart in your mouth meat I have ever enjoyed. The combination of butter, lamb, and preserved lemon somehow created this intensely rich but somehow incredibly refreshing experience. As I said, eating at Tara Kitchen is a journey. by the middle of the meal I was covered in sweat and dizzy, somehow exhausted but at the same time incredibly fulfilled. A pilgrimage of meat. Though it's a small and inconspicuous space, this is not casual dining. This is a place to go if you're in need of a revelation. I'm pretty sure I had visions while finishing the last forkfuls, but that may have been one of the secret ingredients.