Anticipating the opening of Tagine, a French (slash) Moroccan brasserie in Croton-on-Hudson, made me feel like that five year old in the back seat asking, “Are we there yet? How about now? Soon?” Tagine is the newest endeavor of local restaurateurs chef Jonathan Pratt and Craig Purdy, owners of Peter Pratt’s Inn and Umami Cafe. I could barely contain my excitement not only because of my love of all things French, but because my (very French and talented) friend, chef Laurent Ceron, is in the kitchen. Seriously, what a perfect pairing to have an authentic French chef executing this menu! Tagine opened their doors last Friday night, and I’m happy to tell you that it was absolutely worth the wait.
The front door leads straight into the horseshoe-shaped bar which is surrounded by rattan bistro stools and is creatively illuminated with wine bottles converted into pendant lights.
The bar serves beer and wine by the glass from a cutting edge “wine on tap” system. The upside to this is that the wine, which is stored in steel kegs, stays fresh from first glass to last pour and the taps look really cool.
Although it was very tempting to start with a glass of wine at the bar, I couldn’t wait a minute longer to sample the menu, so my hubby and I headed straight into the dining room. There are banquettes on either side of the room which pop with bold reds and blacks. I loved the little details like the ink stamp of Tagine on the paper covering the tables, cotton tea towel napkins, and the eclectic array of china plates on the wall.
As we studied the menu, we snacked on crispy slices of baguette. Dishes like Duck Confit and Coquille St. Jacques certainly called out to my French cravings, but on the Moroccan side there were also enticing vegetable, beef, and lamb tagines to choose from too. (FYI, tagine is not only the name of the restaurant or the slow roasted dish, but also the dome shaped clay vessel it is cooked in. )
I was delighted to see Raclette, a dish straight from the French Alps, on the appetizer menu and knew that I had to have it. Raclette, a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, is heated until it reaches an ooey-gooey melting point, and then it is scraped on top of boiled potatoes. Served with baguette, cornichons (cute little French pickles) and olives, it was the perfect warm-you-up starter.
My hubby had the Duck Rillette which was a ramekin filled with slow cooked seasoned duck meat accompanied by pickled cipollini onions, brie cheese, dried sausage, and olives. Oh yes, we were off to a very good start.
Duck Confit was a simple choice for my entree. I know firsthand all about chef Laurent’s confit. Duck legs first get massaged with some garlic and are covered in their own fat to cook slowly in an oven until totally tender. The leg is then pan seared until the skin is beautifully browned. This, my friends, is what my foodie dreams are made of.
My duck was crispy outside and fall off the bone inside; totally moist, rich and deeee-licious. Served with a combination of roasted potatoes, sweet cipollini onions and mushrooms all nestled on a bed of delicately dressed baby spinach, this dish is a must-try!
Continuing on our French culinary journey, my husband had the Cassoulet. Simply described as a slow simmered mélange of Saucisson (sausage), short ribs, petite Sabarot white coco beans, tomatoes and (oh yes!) duck confit, it is the epitome of hearty and rustic French comfort food.
We decided to turn this into a moveable feast and enjoy our desserts at the bar. We lingered over classic Tart Tatin, an upside down tart with sweet caramelized apples and a Flourless Chocolate Cake that would satisfy any chocoholic. Although quiet on this very first night, it’s not going to be long for this inviting bar to be a venue to meet friends, either old or new, have interesting conversations, and enjoy a drink and dinner.
So, if you are tired of the same old same old, get out of your culinary rut and head to Tagine for something new and different. It’s a little bit French; it’s a little bit Moroccan; and for me, it’s love at first bite.
411 on Tagine:
120 Grand Street
Open 7 days a week for dinner starting at 5 pm