When Maura’s Kitchen first opened, it was known for takeout: specifically its signature rotisserie chicken, marinated in beer and spices for 24 hours, then roasted on a rotating spit over an open flame.
Today, the restaurant has been transformed into a sophisticated spot with candlelit tables, small plates and proper cocktails.
The space, while comfortable, does linger a bit in its deli days — a tile floor and large wooden counter are giveaways — but its new decor pulls your eye mostly away from those, onto the lovely wooden bar with its warm pendant lighting and out the big picture windows with their view onto Main Street. Earth tones of orange and red cover the walls, and simple white cloth napkins adorn the bare wood tables.
And the menu is as exciting as any in Nyack. Expertly made pisco sours, fresh-as-can-be ceviche and exciting entrees that pack a powerful Peruvian punch of flavor.
Oh, and that chicken? It’s been off the dinner menu a while, but owner Tyrone Azenado says it’s coming back soon as an entree: a rotisserie half-chicken with handcut fries and an avocado-mixed greens salad with garlic-lime dressing. Heavenly!
What we tried
Chicken Bites. Bite-sized pieces of chicken, fried to a crunch and drizzled with a hot-honey sauce for a sweet-spicy effect. The scantily dressed slaw underneath makes for a great combination, like KFC, but in a superior Peruvian version.
Scallop Ceviche with Mango and Avocado. The scallops were just the right texture: not too taut and not too flabby; they were marinated for just the right amount of time in lime juice. The onions bring in a little heat, and we loved the crunch of the fried Peruvian corn!
Fish tacos. On the tortillas, guacamole with aji amarillo, a pepper sauce. Drizzled over the top: an acevichado sauce (acidic; it means “in the style of ceviche”). All nearly perfect, though I’m not a huge fan of tilapia. But the panko crust? Fantastic: crunchy, not at all oily. The cabbage? Fresh and crisp. The sauce, just enough kick.
Papa la Huancaina. Potatoes topped with a bright yellow Peruvian cheese sauce. Sort of like the queso you’d find at a Mexican restaurant, but with a sharper kick. Fun!
Clam Bake. Littleneck clams and potatoes steamed with chicha de jora (a Peruvian corn chowder) and homemade seafood stock. Holy! So good. We sipped up every last bit of sauce with our spoons and then used yuca fries to sop up the last drops.
Lomo Saltado. Steak sauteed with tomatoes and onions, served with ho-hum white rice and commercial fries. This was our least favorite dish; the steak wasn’t very juicy. And why serve those fries? Maura’s makes a delicious order of hand-cut with herbs that is far superior.
Arroz Verde. Shrimp and scallops over a cilantro rice flavored with chicha de jora (a Peruvian corn cider) with potato in our Huancaina sauce and some Peruvian zarza (red onions, lime, cilantro, salt). The broth the rice was cooked in was packed with a rich umami flavor, and the zarza gives the dish a great balance.
Chaufa. Fried rice with chicken and Peruvian soy sauce with a cinnamon blend, like Chinese five spice, topped with egg. The rice kernels have a crisp edge and soft interior, the chicken is juicy and the red pepper and scallions bring contrast. Unbelievably delicious.
Drinks and dessert
Pisco Sours! Maura’s serves an absolutely perfect version made with Pisco Porton, a premium brand that owner Tyrone Azenado says really brings out the flavor of the cocktail. We also tried the Nyack Sour, made with Bulleit rye and topped with a Peruvian Malbec blend. Very tasty. A special Peruvian soft drink called chicha morada is also worth a try: it’s made from purple corn, boiled with pineapple, cinnamon, clove and sugar and tastes like a complex root beer. Maura’s offers a pudding made from the same ingredients; I didn’t care for it as much as the drink; the texture reminded me of jelly. On the other hand, the lacuma ice cream, made from a fruit that looks like an orange-colored avocado, was delicious: like a caramel ice pop.
Locals, families and couples out on double dates. Be sure to make a reservation on weekends. A couple of groups were turned away at the door.
Tyrone’s father and Maura’s husband, Edwin Azenado, died suddenly last winter, just after they’d begun transforming the restaurant into what it is today. It’s a testament to the family’s determination that they’ve kept moving forward with their dream. Also, Maura’s is a must-follow on social: Tyrone posts mouthwatering photos on Instagram, pithy observations on Twitter and specials and events on Facebook. Find links on the website.
What we will order next
It’s gotta be the empanadas! Beef and chicken both, please.
Nyack Center, Elmwood Playhouse, Edward Hopper House Art Center, as well as downtown Nyack’s shops and bars.
— By Liz Johnson
THE 411 ON MAURA’S KITCHEN
Entree price range: $15-$21.
Great for: Date Night, Take Out, Craft Beer, Cocktails, Dining at the Bar, Kid Friendly, Meeting for a Drink, Romantic, Dinner with Grandparents, Small Plates, Vegetarians.
Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesday, noon-9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday.
Go: 248 Main St., Nyack. 845-535-3533, mauraskitchen.com