Chez Es Saada

42 E. First Street (between 1st & 2nd Avenues), New York
(212) 777-5617.

our comments

Descend the curved staircase (strewn with rose petals) to this exotically sexy catacomb. The space is divided into several rooms. In one, guests recline on cushions while dining, while in another a ghostly fountain tinkles. In the bar, where svelte young things sip expertly mixed cocktails, cascading trays of olives tempt like the forbidden fruit. And since British maverick Paul Liebrandt (Atlas, Papillon) took over as chef, there has been a renewed interest in Chez Es Saada’s formerly middling food. Liebrandt has injected his own brand of spice into the Moroccan menu with dishes such as an anchovy-and-merguez appetizer, couscous served with quail and lamb, and tagine featuring duck in place of the usual lamb or chicken. Cap off dinner with a pot of Moroccan mint tea. If it’s Friday or Saturday, stick around for the belly dancers.

- April 2005

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