Sunday, June 27, 2010

Zitoune Moroccan Cuisine on bellydancing night


It was on Father’s Day that we headed off to Zitoune, a Moroccan restaurant in Mamaroneck, with A&U. The four of us have eaten together outside for decades—as carefree undergraduates under the open starry skies of Far East in Kharagpur, at Indian restaurants dotting the East Coast with toddlers in tow, restraining eager little hands intent on playing with cutlery; and now, with tousle headed teenagers bantering across the dinner table as equals. It is unfortunate that it took us so many years to come to Zitoune. The restaurant has a spendidly made up interior, with Moorish tilework whose influence can be found from North Africa to Portugal and Spain, curtains made up of light cloth in stripes of oranges and greens and yellows, a décor that is exotic, without the suffocation that can come from over-emphasis. As we walk in, I do an experiment. The manager (or owner) is at the entrance greeting customers-- I give him the “long lost friend” pat on the arm and he, without missing a beat, retorts “good to see you again”.

We start off with a generously proportioned dish of mussels cooked in a broth that has a deep, complex taste. As entrees we had kebabs, milder than their Indian counterparts, and lamb shank in a light gravy, similar to what is available at Shiraz in Elmsford. It was hard not to compare. The lamb was fine and soft and the gravy had a lower fat content, but did not have the melt in your mouth feel of the dish at Shiraz. The Moroccan chicken was excellent, garnished with raisins and cooked with slices of lemon that we, in our ignorance and lack of—literally—fore-sight in the dim light, initially mistook for potatoes. This was excellent food that did not make you feel heavy as an Indian restaurant does. I am certainly not a specialist in Moroccan food, but it was a delightful experience.

And so, with the dinner winding down, the dimmed lights abrubtly shimmered in anticipation, and the space filled out with rhythmic, modern Algerian music. Seeing a broad smile break out on M’s face, I turn around to see a belly dancer sashay across the floor, catlike in elegance. The next 15 minutes, in what I suppose could be interpreted as a Father’s day special, was an extravaganza of angular momenta variations as this mellifluous, gyrating dancer played with the laws of physics, flirted with axes of rotations, balanced a dish heaped with lit candles on her head, in short demonstrating a singular control in balancing mass and torque around a cylindrical coordinate system as I have rarely observed. The physicist Richard Feyman had, by his own admission, developed the theory of quantum electrodynamics triggered by an impromptu decision to work out the equations of motion of a spinning and wobbling saucer that a Cornell student had thrown up in the air. One wonders what an equally worthy physicist might have come up with that night at Zitoune.
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