Tagine: Fight off winter’s chill with this spicy stew

Mezzet’s Chicken Tagine. Photo by Priscilla Iezzi.

Tagine is the signature dish of North African cuisine. The name refers to both the cooking vessel—a wide clay bowl with a tall conical lid that captures steam, condenses the moisture, and sends it down to the food below—as well as the resulting stew-like dish. It’s a great entry into this spice-rich fare.

Costa Mesa’s Marrakesh is the county’s Moroccan stalwart. The restaurant is designed to provide a stylized experience as much as a meal, with belly dancers, fez-wearing waiters, and a dining room that feels like a lavish Saharan tent. Choose from chicken, lamb, and fish tagines. The lamb is a sight: a massive, slow-cooked shank suffused with honey and scattered with sweet prunes. The fish is a lighter option, with peppers, tomatoes, and olives.

You’ll also find three choices at Mezzet, a new pan-Mediterranean place in the Crate & Barrel wing of South Coast Plaza. But it includes a vegetarian option instead of fish. The tagines arrive in traditional clay dishes, with small mounds of couscous, along with carrots, pickled cherry peppers, chickpeas, tomatoes, squash, and lightly blistered grapes. The chicken is particularly good, a massive breast pounded thin and redolent of many warm Moroccan spices.

The ambassador of many a Mediterranean cuisine, Zov’s Bistro serves tagine, too, and it’s likely the most refined: slow-cooked chicken, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, and peppers over rice pilaf instead of the traditional couscous. It’s a satisfying dish, the kind of meal that can sustain you through the cool months before spring blooms.

Photo by Priscilla Iezzi

The menu at Mezzet doesn’t stick to one cuisine—it dabbles in
the entire Mediterranean. This includes Italy. So try the house-made lasagna,
a decidedly meaty variation stacked in neat layers and pulled, still-molten, from the wood-burning oven.

1976 Newport Blvd.
Costa Mesa

3333 Bear St.
Costa Mesa

Zov’s Bistro
17440 E. 17th St. Tustin

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