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Show Tunes And Good Food

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular event -- a guest blogger! Please ignore the shot she takes at New Jersey...obviously, she has never had a fried hot dog!

One of the most difficult decisions I have to make when going to the theater in New York City is where to eat. Do we eat before the theater and rush through dinner, or do we eat a ridiculously late dinner? Do we try a new, trendy place certain to disappoint? Unfortunately, in the Times Square area, the pickings are slim…unusual for a New York neighborhood. I suspect that is because Times Square caters predominantly to tourists and natives from New Jersey who don’t know better. I have had many a mediocre meal at crowded Italian, French, Japanese, and Chinese restaurants in the area.

This problem was solved on Sunday when I discovered Tagine, which serves the best Moroccan food I’ve had in New York. With lots of friendly advice from the charming executive chef and co-owner, Hamid, and his magnificent wife and co-owner, Toni, we were served an assortment of cold mezze (kale, eggplant and olive dishes), followed by the sublime bastilla as appetizers. The bastilla was certainly the best I have ever tried, made with pheasant (not pigeon.) Bastilla is a fillo pie stuffed with stewed pheasant in saffron broth and glazed with almond and cinnamon. As a main course, we shared a vegetable couscous stewed in chick pea broth, lamb tagine with prunes and almonds, and chicken tagine with preserved lemon and olives. And for dessert, we had a fruit platter, on the house.

The service was extremely friendly, the Moroccan wine was excellent (believe it or not), and the ambience was exactly how I imagine a traditional restaurant in Fez. Even more wonderful, the bill was reasonable. I understand belly dancing begins at 9:30 p.m., which my sons would have loved to watch but we had to go home to finish homework. The kitchen at Tagine stays open until 2:00 a.m., but the bar serves until 4:00 a.m. on the weekends. The restaurant is located at 537 9th Avenue at 40th Street. Why haven’t I found it before? Because, even though they request a listing each year, they have never been listed in Zagats. This restaurant is a real sleeper -- rustic and warm, with superb food.

Incidentally, when I described my find to a friend, she said Sushi by Gari is also opening in the Theater District.

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