Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Piece of Morocco in Hell's Kitchen

If you ever find yourself in Midtown West or in the Theatre District or just near the Westside Highway within the 50's there's a restaurant you should definitely try out. The Moroccan inspired menu at Taboon is sure to please your appetite. Taboon is located at 773 10th Avenue on the corner of 52nd St. It is open for dinner on weekdays & saturdays and also for Sunday brunch. It is a great spot for dinner if you're meeting friends, family or are on a date. The name Taboon means "oven" in Arabic. The wood fired taboon with it's cone-like top is the heart of the restaurant. The Middle Eastern cuisine which is prepared using French techniques and Mediterranean spices is really quite flavorful and delicious.

I arrived a few minutes early on friday night, as usual. I sat at the bar which was busy with a handful of patrons and ordered an $11 glass of Italian pinot grigio. It was about 6:30 as I surveyed the restaurant, it has a contemporary vibe, the tables were set with dark table clothes and votive candles. There were a few diners seated eating their meals. I found out that with reservations and with bigger groups you can sit in the large open dining area. My party of 4 arrived soon after and since we didn't have reservations we were seated in the front corner area near the taboon oven. Still a nice spot for dining, private and intimate. The service was just as good in the front area as it was in the larger dining area.

We started our meals with the House Focaccia bread ($4.50), an absolute must try. It is baked in the taboon oven, brushed with olive oil and finished with rosemary, sage and fleur de sel (a hand harvested sea salt). The bread alone was delicious and warm. We ordered hummus and tzatziki sauce to accompany the bread ($8 & $4.50).

Appetizers, soups and salads followed. A garden salad for me (mixed greens, haricot verts, asparagus, olive oil and lemon juice) at $10. The others ordered Shrimp Kadayif off of the Meze menu (baked shrimp wrapped in filo, served on chopped vegetables with tahini) $11 and chickpea soup which was the soup of the day (not sure of the price). The Entrees we ordered were: Branzino- a fish baked with rosemary in the taboon and served whole with cauliflower, tahini and grilled asparagus $28; Chicken Taboon- organic free range, french cut breast with leg & thigh roulade wrapped with fresh oregano pesto & preserved lemon served with a mujadarra rice cake $24; Lamb Osso Bucco- tender braised colorado lamb shank with faro, glazed carrots and green peas $24; my meal was the Heraime- halibut, taboon baked in a ragout of roasted pepper, tomato, cilantro, moroccan spices, artichokes and hot paprika oil. It is served "in padella" which is the metal pan it is roasted in (very hot), with a side of couscous $30. To sum up the meals, all the portions were a moderate size, it was filling and everyone's plates were empty.

We decided to skip dessert at Taboon and walked to 9th Avenue near 48th St. to a Japanese dessert place called Kyotofu. This spot has gotten good write-ups and it's a great place if you're in the mood for something different. Kyotofu now serves hot foods and winter meals, where once they only served japanese desserts which are paired with various sakis and teas. They still hold tastings for those of you that are into trying new things.

We ordered up our desserts: Warm Sweet Potato Cake- a miniature bread topped with caramel and powdered sugar, served with vanilla bean ice cream and pecan tuile $10; Warm Mochi Chocolate Cake- a tasting size of  creamy semi sweet dark chocolate cake topped with green tea shiro-an $10; Kyotofu Dessert Kaiseki Prix Fixe- a tasting of 5 different desserts served in 3 courses $17. Since I was pretty full from dinner I can only speak for my dessert, the Warm Sweet Potato Cake. Though I consider myself to have an adventurous palette, I found that this is the perfect dessert to satisfy a mostly western palatte. It's alot like a miniature bread pudding with a hint of sweet potato flavor, really yummy. The crunchy pecan tuile and the vanilla ice cream make a nice accompaniment to the cake so you get a little hot and cold. I paired it with a cinnamon rosehip rooibos tea (decaf, mildly sweet tea). The total bill came to about $64 not including tip.
Overall a fun friday dining experience.

First 3 photos are Taboon
Last 2 photos are Kyotofu