327 Commercial St., Portland
If variety is the spice of life, brunch in Portland can be a pretty bland meal.
Lazy metaphor aside, what I’m saying is that breakfast and brunch menus around Portland tend to look pretty similar. You’ve got your omelets, your Benedicts, your hashes, your avocado toasts… Don’t get me wrong, I love those things. But sometimes it would be nice to look at a menu and see something that makes you go, Ooh, that’s different.
All this is building up to something, and that something is Tiqa. Located next to the Marriott Courtyard on Commercial Street, the pan-Mediterranean restaurant opened in 2015 but only began serving brunch this winter. A few weeks later, my wife and I took advantage of a Maine Restaurant Week special — two courses for $19, available by curbside pickup — to sample the intriguing new menu.
I’m already planning my next visit.
My first course was knafeh ($8), a delicacy of crisp, shredded phyllo dough with a lightly sweetened cheese filling, drizzled with maple syrup. The flavor reminded me of the noodle kugel my Jewish grandmother used to make with a Great Depression–era, crushed-cornflake topping. Sorry, Gramma Bernice, but this one gets the win.
My wife started with a dish of baba ganoush and homemade pita bread ($12). I tend to shy away from eggplant, but the flavorful and incredibly smooth puree won me over. The bread was fresh and fluffy, miles away from the sad pockets you’d find in the supermarket deli aisle.
For my entrée, I chose lamb confit ($13), mixed into scrambled eggs and served with more of that delicious pita. The fall-apart tender meat was nicely charred, with crispy bits adding texture to the soft scramble. Fresh herbs and warm spices added layer upon layer of flavor.
My wife’s qatayef ($12) was a distant cousin to that ’90s brunch favorite, stuffed French toast. Lacy, paper-thin pancakes — flavorful in their own right — were filled with a cinnamon-walnut paste and topped with rose-water syrup. It was just sweet enough to feel decadent without going over the top.
We wanted to try one of Tiqa’s brunch cocktails, but since curbside pickup doesn’t allow for age verification we ended up ordering a virgin version of their stellar, spicy Bloody ($12 for the real deal at the restaurant). We added our own vodka and garnish at home for the full experience.
We finished our meal with a halvah sticky bun ($3 each or four for $9). Although the traditional sesame fudge was more of an accent than a major ingredient, this was still one of the best sweet rolls I’ve had in quite some time.
As good as our meal was, I know it would be even better enjoyed in-house. I can’t wait to hit Tiqa’s spacious patio on a sunny weekend in the near future to try more items from their deliciously different brunch menu.
Tiqa serves brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.