Holiday Melodies + A Mediterranean Medley
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and Sahara Restaurant
♪May I return to the beginning♪
Last April, I wrote my second post on this blog Monster Pizza + The Man Who Sold the World after attending a concert at the NJ State Theatre. And so why not end 2016 back at the theater for a musical and Mediterranean food?
It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” but it still remains one of my favorite musicals. The show might not be particularly long or dialogue-heavy but the songs are just so catchy! (The first time my parents saw JATD, they drove right to the record store to buy the soundtrack.)
And to complete our Christmas outing, we decided to go to Sahara Restaurant.
It was our second time eating at Sahara Restaurant and the food did not disappoint. The interior was just as cozy as before with candles and burgundy drapes but my favorite design element is the hot air balloon light fixture.
We started with the Vegetarian Combination appetizer— a delicious platter of hummus, eggplant salad, spiced ezme (mashed vegetables with walnuts and herbs) labhne (homemade sour cream with walnuts and herbs) and cauliflower dip. Apparently it’s a very popular choice because while we were there, every table ordered one.
Served with warm pita bread, it’s a fantastic starter but at $22, it is definitely a splurge even considering the endless refills on bread. The good news is that after sharing the combination platter with two or three other people and eating the red lentil soup that comes with most meals, you might be too full to eat your entrée.
Prepare for leftovers!
The first time I ate at Sahara, I ordered the Nile Chicken— a delicious concoction of chicken, eggplant, roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella in a pink sauce. Unlike some restaurants, Sahara cooked the eggplant perfectly without a hint of bitterness. It was a melt-in-your-mouth kind of eggplant that I still daydream about once in awhile.
As tempted as I was to get the Nile Chicken again, I decided to explore the menu. After all, the Sahara Desert is about the size of the U.S. so why not be a little more of an adventurous during this culinary expedition?
I ordered one of the specials— duck in a spicy red cherry pepper sauce with mashed potato and mixed vegetables.
I’m a duck fanatic but I was a bit let down by Sahara’s preparation. Duck is so flavorful on its own that the sauce, though not ridiculously spicy, was a little overpowering. (I was worried about the sauce in the description but the promise of duck lured me in, argh.)
The duck itself was passable but the dish did not do the meat justice. And let me preface this by saying I know duck is a fatty meat but in this case, large chunks of fat were left running underneath the strips of meat. As in the fat was often considerably thicker than meat. It could have been easily removed in the kitchen but it was much more difficult trying to hack the rubbery bits off with a butter knife at the table.
Peking duck, duck confit, despair.
Like me, my dad enjoyed the first entrée he ordered at Sahara more than tonight’s seafood special. The Braised Beef Short Ribs with Couscous were tasty but the Sea Bass Stuffed with Crab Meat wasn’t a star. Sea bass and short ribs are two of my dad’s favorite proteins but he would only order one of them again at Sahara.
Interestingly enough, both the entrées we preferred were $19 as opposed to the $24/$25 specials. Save that six bucks for dessert!
My mom went for the Tilapia Filet with Tomato and Capers in Garlic Lemon Sauce. She thought the fish was very tender and fresh. Since fish doesn’t reheat well, she ate the whole thing and was absolutely stuffed. My mom definitely appreciates any restaurant that serves a substantial side of vegetables rather than a meager helping so Sahara won her over in that regard.
(She enjoyed the Ground Beef Stuffed Eggplant from last time as well.)
Sahara offers a number of vegetarian options and my brother went for the Couscous Vegetable Stew. It’s not the most exciting sounding dish but he liked it. The almonds added a nice crunch but he didn’t really consider the dish to be a stew. Generally stews are a little more soupy so this was more like a plate of roasted vegetables.
Regardless, it was a plate of roasted vegetables he enjoyed.
Finishing off the meal was a chocolate lava cake and baked rice pudding. The lava cake was chocolatey but in a way that, oddly enough, tasted more like a doughnut than a cake.
Calling it a lava cake was a bit of a stretch as the cake was topped with chocolate sauce rather than being filled. It was alright but if you’re in a chocolate mood, walk a couple blocks to Thomas Sweet for some chocolate ice cream. (Their Chocolate-Raspberry Truffle and Mississippi Mud Pie ice creams are fantastic!)
A better choice is the baked rice pudding. It comes in a cute little crock reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh’s honey jar and is super creamy.
Although we didn’t order it this time, I thought the Sobiyet was very good. My parents didn’t enjoy the flaky layers of phyllo dough surrounding pudding and pistachios as much although I’m not entirely sure why.
Overall it was a nice evening. Musicals and Mediterranean fare— not a bad way to spend the holiday.
Do I recommend Sahara Restaurant? Yes!
The food is good, bordering on excellent depending on what you get. Service and quality control might be less attentive depending on the day you go but the staff always seems welcoming. With entrées between $15-$20 with a few (mostly higher priced) outliers and specials, Sahara Restaurant is a pricier meal especially if you order appetizers
If you’re on a budget but still want to try the Vegetarian Platter, consider splitting it with a few friends and then ordering a soup or dessert. Drinks seem reasonably priced at $2 Turkish Coffee or Café au lait so I would imagine Sahara would be a nice place to grab an afternoon snack with a friend.
Things to Note:
- Based on the menu, the entrées don’t seem to be cheaper at lunch. I’m not positive but it looks like the only lunch prices are for sandwiches.
- We’ve managed to snag a parking space but both times the lot was near or at capacity. Street parking can be an issue in New Brunswick. If it’s a nice day, Buccleuch Park has spots for parallel parking and the walk isn’t terrible.
- The spicy red lentil soup does have a bit of a kick. Nothing too major, just a slow warming. (I still prefer the red lentil soup at Crazy 4 Falafel though.)
- So far, we’ve enjoyed the usual entrées more than the specials. The only exception was the Ground Beef Stuffed Eggplant so don’t worry about missing out if you order a less expensive dish!
- If you want a gooey chocolatey dessert, you’ll probably be disappointed with the lava cake. It was light on the lava so rather than molten goodness, it was more of a dry cake with ice cream. Not quite dry as a desert but still.
- Good for a fancier date night.
- There is upstairs seating but I’ve never seen it. If you get the chance to check it out, tweet me a pic!
Where to Try It
165 Easton Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ
15 Livingston Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ