Monday, November 17, 2008

French-North African at Cafe Lafayette

Some friends of mine were in town for the weekend and we had a whole 'dinner and a movie' plan. Since we were seeing a movie at BAM, we figured we'd head to Ft. Greene for dinner. Since it was Friday night, we were turned away from some places for not having a reservation, but luckily, Cafe Lafayette (99 S. Portland Ave., between Fulton and Lafayette, 718-858-6821) had a table for four available out front, and since it was a balmy night, we grabbed it. Cafe Lafayette is a nice French Bistro that offers the classic French dishes with a North African twist.

For starters, we got the Shrimp Fritters and the Rosemary Goat Cheese Salad. The Fritters were good; a bit oily, but the chili sauce on the side added a nice sweet and spicy kick, and the light batter did not overshadow the flavor of the shrimp. And it came on such a pretty little plate!

The Salad had a yummy, light dressing and two slices of toasted baguette topped with generous slabs of rosemary-covered goat cheese. The bread was a little greasy, but nicely salty, and the cheese was creamy and tart. The greens were good too - fresh and piled high.

My friend got what I thought was the best dish of the night - the Vegetarian Couscous with Harissa Sauce. It was presented nicely, the couscous was moist and the flavors of the veggie stew (carrots, garbanzo beans, broccoli) were deep and complex. Very tasty.

The next best meal was the Moules in Coconut Sauce. A big bowl arrived chock-full of mussels in a delicious, slightly sweet and milky coconut broth, and a side of french fries that were well-salted and flecked with parsely. The mussels were tender and yummy, and the coconut was a nice departure from white wine or tomato sauce.

I got the Goat Cheese Panini, with Roasted Red Peppers, Portabello Mushroom and Arugula. The bread was grilled so the cheese gets melty and the mushroom was substantial, meaty and delicious. I wasn't super hungry, so it was the perfect amount of food.

My boyfriend got the Spinach & Cheese Ravioli in Tomato Vodka Sauce. This was a fine dish, but not memorable. The portion was good, and the sauce was competently made, but it didn't stand out among the other, more interesting and flavorful meals.

Cafe Lafayette is a really nice place - the dining room is small and cozy, perfect for cold winter nights, and the burgers are also excellent. Grilled Merguez Sandwich anyone?

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