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Tatu - Tacos. Tequila. Tattoos.

By Claire Burnett | September 19, 2022

Photo credit: Claire Burnett

As my boyfriend and I arrived at 7 p.m. for our reservation, we were greeted by Jennyfur Spaulding, the designer and co-owner of Tatu. With a warm smile and outstretched hand, she led us through the low-lit maze of murmurs to our high-top table with tall black leather bar stools. A black paisley pattern ran from floor to ceiling, accompanied by eccentric art from local tattoo artists and pieces the owners picked up along their travels.

Tatu is owned by Chef Kareem NeJame, and Artist Jennyfur Spaulding. It boasts a menu inspired by the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, highlighting the Lebanese influence on the region’s food. Other culinary influences include the Middle East, Spain, North Africa, and the Caribbean. If that isn’t enough to entice you, they own one of the biggest collections of Mezcal, Tequila, and Sotol in the Capitol Region. In addition to the menu of food, they have a menu of designs that an in-house artist will skillfully tattoo for you.

Photo credit: Claire Burnett

We were first served some delicious, spiced popcorn, accompanied by a flight of 123 tequila. 123 tequila gets darker with each shot as it ages. The deeper the color, the smoother it goes down, and the more fire you feel in your belly. Connor, the boyfriend, described it as a “hot breath from the Senora.”

Photo credit: Claire Burnett

The first order to arrive was our Papas Fritas. While I was expecting some seasoned fries and dip, I got the softest, crunchiest, most delicious potatoes. They were sprinkled with bright, fresh chives. The cotija cheese perfectly crumbled in a smokey, creamy sauce with a hint of paprika. As we sliced through the potatoes like butter, steam poured from its soft, cooked center. It was gone as soon as it came.

We admired the art and chatted with our waiter, who was being shadowed by a very enthusiastic trainee. Every time someone passed our table we were met with a smile or pleasant conversation. While the place was busy, nothing felt rushed; I felt like I could stay and chat for a few hours without much interruption.

Our main courses arrived as we were admiring an Anthony Bourdain painting, his knuckles tattooed with the words “CHEF LIFE”. The dish’s aromas wafted up in thick, warm steam – our mouths already watering.

Photo credit: Claire Burnett

The Chicken Pibbil I ordered was an intense juxtaposition of taste. Generously flavored, slow-cooked, pulled chicken was neatly placed on a bed of delicately but powerfully seasoned cinnamon rice. Garnished with an avocado sauce, the salty, thick chunks of tomato and sweet onion provided a wonderful infusion of flavor.

Photo credit: Claire Burnett

The Mayan Prawn Tacos were tastefully put together. The pineapple habanero that coated the top of the taco was sweet and extremely spicy, enough to make your lips burn, but not enough to scare you away from another bite. The charred shrimp sitting on a bed of greens added a satisfying crunch and texture

As we dined, the ambiance chilled out as time ticked on, and people started to go home. Jennyfur was to be seen all night, whisking around, table to table in a red jumpsuit and beaded choker. Attentive to every customer, with a friendly smile, and great wit, she helped bring the front of the place together. Kamaar could also be seen at various, fleeting moments through the kitchen door windows – likely grabbing ingredients for delicious dishes.

Photo credit: Claire Burnett

The desert was comparably impeccable. The flourless chocolate cake was soft and creamy like mousse, with a light sprinkle of powdered sugar on top. The churro waffles were the real star of the show; every bite was perfectly crunchy and creamy. The ice cream placed delicately on top of the two large waffles was sprinkled with a chili lime spice - another unconventional idea that worked all too well.

We left at 8:30 p.m. after a lovely meal. Tatu left a lasting impact on our idea of food and reminded me of how one can play with cuisine and still make something impeccable. It all screamed original and creative and was highlighted in every aspect, from the food to the décor. We will definitely be going back to experience the full range of flavor and the fusion of spices crafted by co-owner Chef Kareen NeJame and Jennyfur Spaulding.

Tatu is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 5 to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends. They are located at 100 Congress Street, Troy, New York. Call to make reservations at 518-874-1028 or just walk in!


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