Monday, February 23, 2009

Cafe Mogador

Cafe Mogador
101 St. Mark's Place, New York, NY

Seems like we've been in the East Village a lot lately. We met some friends for Morrocan food at Cafe Mogador last Saturday night. You need to pass through some strange heavy drapery to enter the restaurant. After emerging rather clumsily from the mysterious curtain and finding ourselves smack-dab in middle of Saturday night chaos in a busy restaurant, we weren't exactly sure how to get seated. Cafe Mogador doesn't accept reservations on Friday or Saturday nights, so it's first-come, first-served. Luckily, I spotted my friends at the bar and by some small miracle, the six of us were seated at a corner table almost immediately. The candlelit atmosphere was both lively and romantic at the same time. Maybe I'm getting old, but it was so dark at our table that I had one heck of a time reading the menu. Fortunately, I'd perused the menu online so I already knew what I wanted. There was also a special menu which featured items not found on the website - my deteriorating eyes managed to detect some meat specials, pastas, and a fish tagine. We ordered a few appetizers for the table - hummus (not bad, but I have to admit that I still prefer the roasted garlic hummus we get from the olive bar at our local supermarket), olives & pickles (meh), roasted eggplant (yummy), served alongside warm pita bread (quite possibly the best I've had). For my entree, I chose the bastilla, a filo pastry stuffed with chicken, almonds, and eggs, and it was quite good. Some reviews had described it as being overly sweet, but I thought the flavors were nicely balanced and leaned toward savory, with just a hint of cinnamon. Only while checking my photos the next day did I notice that my bastilla had been generously dusted with confectioners sugar (see photo above). The beets in my side salad were super tasty, but my favorite bite of the evening came from my friend's fish tagine special - the sea bass was moist and perfectly seasoned with fragrant herbs. Kris had the lamb tagine with casablanca sauce (chickpeas, onions, & raisins) over couscous and loved it. But Kris hasn't ever met a lamb he didn't like (especially when it's falling-off-the-bone tender). I managed to steal a quick bite of his lamb and found the flavors good but nothing spectacular (but my senses may have been severely compromised due to the fact that I'm such a visual eater). For beverages, Kris tried a blood orange martini which he deemed "near perfect". I wasn't as fortunate in my own cocktail choice - my blueberry mojito was light on the blueberry and heavy on the mint. I finally gave up sipping on it when I hit a impenetrable forest of chopped mint in the bottom half of my glass. Did I mention that our waiter was really nice and attentive? Even when we asked him to split our bill on 3 separate credit cards. The cost for the 2 of us was $55 (including tax) - very reasonable in NYC. We left the restaurant without having dessert - I was determined to get my sweet fix at the Dessert Truck that night!

The Verdict: Solid food and service, eclectic crowd, definitely going back for the Fish Tangine.