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Restaurants & Bars 2

Chameau magic (long)

Adsvino | May 17, 200501:05 AM

Last Saturday I ate at Chameau on Fairfax near Beverly. I had eaten at the prior incarnation in Silverlake, but not at this new version. I liked the old ones food very much, but the service and ambiance left little to be desired. For those not familiar with the restaurant, it is Cal-Moroccan, with traditional dishes from morocco lightened up and revised with seasonal produce (not fusion).

We were driving around late and decided to drop in on Chameau. There is one smallish room, very intimate with soft lighting. The decor is now retro 60’s with lots of bold colors and modern touches, not my favorite style but not offensive and quite comfortable. Bread comes with olives and two dips, eggplant and preserved lemon. We started with the soup, a spring pea soup with mint and asparagus spears—light, flavorful and wonderful. Actually broth-based with those vegetables, not a boring puree. I passed on the duck bistilla that I really wanted because my companion didn’t like duck. For entrée I had the lamb tagine over cous cous with spring vegetables. There were probably 40 ingredients in this dish (15 vegetables, nuts, fruits, lamb, sauce, etc., and the vegetarian version of this may be the best vegetarian dish in town. It was served in a traditional conical tagine and they even bought the lamb braising liquid in a little pitcher. Our waiter told us the cous cous here is made by hand out of flour, not pre-bought.

Sides are numerous, and we had the braised baby artichokes, all meaty heart and faintly flavored with lemon. They were the most flavorful artichokes I’ve ever enjoyed. A side of roasted peppers didn’t do anything for me but I really didn’t have free reign with the ordering, and there were other sides (grilled sardines, mushroom gratin) that I really coveted. We passed on dessert in favor of Moroccan mint tea, also made from scratch.

The service must be noted. We fill half our posts with humorous asides about the mean-spirited, dreadfully inept service we mostly get in LA, so it was particularly inspiring to experience the service at Chameau. Our waiter was a thin man of what looked like middle-eastern descent, with a close-shaved head, and he just anticipated our every desire. When we only ordered soup, two spoons were brought unasked and he served it as a course. All his recommendations were dead on correct (He recommended the artichokes). He was so unobtrusive I never noticed him do anything, yet all was timed and executed precisely. His manner was gracious, warm, and delicate but most of all he radiated an inner calm that seemed a samsaric contentedness--One got the strange feeling that there was nowhere else he would rather be, that he was savoring every moment we were there like it could be his last chance to witness such beauty. His efforts wrought the magic of our experience there.

The wine list at Chameau is smallish and not hugely interesting, mostly inexpensive bottlings, but I believe they have a liberal corkage policy, and the table next to us downed 4 bottles of Siduri pinot while we dined. I am a cynic, but there was little I could find to dislike in this meal. Real care for their patrons was evident everywhere, and the deliciousness of the food spoke for itself.

Total for two with 3 glasses of wine $70 + $15 tip. Will be back within the next two weeks with wine in tow…

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