Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tangierino: Moroccan Paradise in Charlestown

There are few restaurants that really seem to transport you elsewhere, which immerse you in a homey ambiance that makes you feel as if you were in a different country. Such restaurants occupy a special place and when they also serve excellent food, then you have found a unique and compelling culinary destination. Dali Restaurant is one such place and I must add Tangierino to that short list too.

Tangierino is a Moroccan restaurant located in Charlestown, not far from City Square. The Chef/owner is Samad Naamad, once an interior designer, who has created quite an intriguing restaurant. Besides the dining area there is the Marrakesh salon, a wine bar, and the new Koullshi, located in the basement area, which is a "Bedouin" room where you can smoke cigars or shisha pipes, also known as hookahs.

The restaurant is absolutely beautiful, very tastefully decorated with colorful tiles, gauzy curtains, hanging lanterns, soft cushions, intriguing pictures, and much more. It avoids being kitschy and you feel as if you might be dining in North Africa, as if you have stepped through a portal to another land. It is a very romantic spot, with its muted lighting and special curtained-off tables. Rather than just eat a meal there, you will have a dining experience. As part of a media dinner, I sat with our group in a small private room, on comfy couches, that certainly made for an appealing experience.

Tangierino has an extensive bar and wine selection, with plenty of wines priced from $30-$50. They even have a fairly long list of half-bottles plus a couple Sakés. Their cocktail list has numerous interesting choices, many with a Moroccan flair. The Sangria Sultana is like a traditional Sangria but with the addition of figs. It was one of the better Sangrias I have had, not too sweet and without a heavy alcohol taste. The fig flavor made a tasty addition and I would order this again. The Moroccan Mojito also has some added fig syrup which made this cocktail quite delicious. The Snake Charmer is another interesting apertif made with St. Germain, Chambord, and Champagne.

Prior to the start of our meal, adding to the ambiance, a man came by to let us wash our hands. He poured warm, rose-scented water over our hands into a basin. Another item that added to the ambiance, which came later during the meal, was a belly dancer. She was quite beautiful and very skilled, her sultry moves adding to the sensuality of the dining experience.

The menu is divided into Old World (the more traditional and authentic dishes) and New World (more modern dishes with a Moroccan flair) items. Appetizers range from $8-21 (averaging about $15) and entrees range from $19-$34 (averaging $26-27). There are plenty of appealing options, many that interested me. We had a set menu for the evening, a five course meal so we did not get to choose anything. Four of our courses seemed to be appetizers from the menu.

We began with a 4 Layer Tuna Tartare ($16), which has layers of spicy tuna, honey, mango, guacamole, scallions, and cucumber. This is one of the New World selections. As a tuna tartare dish, I don't really think this worked. There were too many flavors and textures, making for a very busy dish and the tuna got lost in all of it. It tasted fine but I don't think it did justice to the raw tuna. In a tartare dish, I want the flavor of the fish or meat to be very noticeable, and for the additional ingredients to complement, not disguise the fish or meat.

The Chicken B’stila ($12), an Old World dish, was quite delicious. A delicate and flaky phyllo dough covered a flavorful mix of chicken, toasted almonds, and spices. The phyllo was covered with some cinnamon and sugar making this both a sweet and savory dish. You might not think the sweetness would work with this dish but it actually does very well. I could have easily eaten a second plate of these as they were so good.

Next up, was a Moroccan-Sicilian Eggplant ($13), another Old World dish, which was filled with parmesan, mozzarella and ricotta cheese and topped by a charmoula sauce. Those who like eggplant seemed to really enjoy this dish. The sauce was interesting, almost resembling a red sauce in its appearance, but very different in taste. It was rich with flavor, the various spices combining into a delicious melange.

Then we had the Blazing Beef Tenderloin ($15), a New World dish, topped by a harissa teriyaki sauce, and accompanied by a vegetable roll and a cucumber/mango salad. This was an excellent dish, very tender beef with an amazing sauce. The sauce was both spicy (from the harissa) and sweet and was perfect atop the beef. This is another dish I could have easily eaten seconds. The harissa went so well with the teriyaki sauce that I might try to make it at home. I make my own teriyaki sauce so it would be quite easy to add some harissa.

We then adjourned downstairs, to Koullshi. This area is just as amazing as the upstairs, definitely with a compelling ambiance. It is a place to smoke shisha and cigars, in a very comfortable venue. There is a bar down there, as well as a large cigar humidor where you can purchase your favorite cigars. One of the most intriguing areas is the "Bedouin cave," a real small cave where a few people can relax in comfort.

We hung out in one of the private rooms, where we had drinks, desserts and some shared one of the shisha pipes. The desserts were quite good and my favorite was the Chocolate Caramel Pyramid, which was actually shaped like a small pyramid. I have seen similar looking desserts befiore and they are usually rich and heavy. But this was not, instead being incredibly light, almost mousse-like, though even lighter. It was not overly sweet and had a nice chocolately flavor. A perfect. light ending after you have already gorged yourself upstairs.

For a weeknight, it was quite busy and I fully understand why. Tangerino impressed me and I will certainly return soon to check out the rest of their menu. I recommend you check out Tangierino, especially if you are seeking something different.

83 Main Street
Charlestown, MA
Phone: 617-242-6009

Tangierino on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

cigar humidor set seems to be a gr8 one for the cigar use....