I want to tell you about a restaurant that is one of the best kept secrets in town, and once you discover it you will add it to your favorites. The place which is called Tagine and the fact that one of the three owners is Ryan Thomas Gosling who frequents the place with his many movie star friends (perhaps not former girlfriend Sandra Bullock) when he is in town, also gives the place a buzz. On any given night you will most likely see a celebrity or two, but since the place is so small and extremely private, it is unlike any other place in town.
This is a great place for a celebration of any kind, and dancing on the tables is also allowed. The place is only small with about 30 seats, but they will stay open until the last diner leaves, which in many cases is only after a lot of subtle urgings. The décor is classy with unique art work on the walls, and although the place is small, the acoustics are such that intimate private conversations stay that way.
For the guys reading this, single women like to come to Tagine to get their photo taken with the "star," and he is more than willing to oblige and join in the partying which happens every night. The hot sounds from Morocco, Algeria and France provide the exotic back drop, and although the previous incarnation of Tagine (Mamounia) had a big thing about belly dancers, you will not find them here, unless you want to hire your own. Instead, you get the chance to lounge on comfortable sofas and let the atmosphere flow, along with the Moroccan wine (Amazir is the top choice).
The food is Moroccan, and without a doubt is some of the tastiest food you will ever try. Master Chef Abdessamad Benameur grew up on the streets of Casablanca, and since coming to America has been in so many kitchens he has lost count. Now he has a chance to shine, and his Zerda (tasting menu) is all the rave with the in-crowd for a combined price of $33 to $38. They recently stole the show at the Taste of LA extravaganza. You start the meal with Moroccan salads with pouri bread, all served in baby tagine's, with almost a dozen different items ranging from beets to egg plant to cucumber, all marinated overnight and extremely savory. Then try the Tagine platter, a tasting of the freshest hummus you will ever try thanks to the extra virgin olive oil, along with spiced beef briwaats, chicken msemen (pot pie) and olives
Just when you think all the appetizers are over, out comes their specialty, the Bastilla, a savory pastry of saffron chicken, almond, powdered sugar and cinnamon. The authentic version in Morocco is usually done with pigeon, but since American's are not that keen on that, chicken gets the nod. Duck will also be used in the near future, and for those of you who never tried this delicacy, Tagine probably prepares the best Bastilla in town.
The secret of Moroccan food is a lengthy marination procession and the subtle use of spices. That comes out in the main course of Tagine du Jour, traditionally spiced braised Chicken or Lamb. You might want to try the Lham Maasal instead, braised lamb with honey, almond and caramelized onion, or the Minawa, a mixed grill of fish, chicken, lamb & merguez (spicy sausage) with cous cous. Cous cous of course is a staple of Moroccan food, and again the version here is superlative, just the right moisture level and served with the right vegetables.
Any meal here has to end with the wonderful mint spiced tea that will provide you with the sweet taste that is a perfect complement to Moroccan food. As you stumble out into the cool night air, you will not forget an evening at Tagine in a hurry.
Tel: 310.360.7535 Mike Hepworth September 2005
Mike Hepworth September 2005