BACK ISSUE #405

Restaurant Review: Le Aladdin

When the elevators doors for Le Aladdin open, another world is revealed. Such is the atmosphere created by the shimmering candlelight, enormous glass lanterns, hand-painted murals, mosaics, tiles and arched mirrors that you are transported straight into the buzzing markets of Marrakech.

An evening in another of Tokyo's fantastic theme restaurants is underway. It gets better as you are guided to your boudoir-esque seats, sumptuous cushioned cast iron chaise lounges and encapsulating chairs, with music reminiscent of twilight at the Djeema El Fnaa reverberating in your ears. No corner of the cavernous interior seems untouched by the enchanting, melancholy lyrics. We could only reply with an order of cocktails—the jet-blue Potechin (¥580) coconut liqueur, strawberry cream and pineapple juice and a Fes (¥600), a sour combination of lychee liqueur and ice balls of cranberry and grapefruit juices and champagne. Both were strong and full of depth, entertaining the taste buds before the mesmerizing scene as we awaited our orders.

Chefs Kuratani and Kamada offer a huge range of dishes, from traditional North African to rice and noodles. All are reasonably priced, tempting us to go for variety, but we stuck with the Moroccan fare. Shish kebabs with Moroccan crepe (¥680) at first looked a little short on the tasty, minted meat, but coupled with the soft bread and spicy sauce were succulent and satisfying. Bean-starch warm salad couscous style miracle Morocco (¥780) was heavy on the garlic and chili, more myriad of Japanese fusion than the title suggested, but beautifully laid out on a layer of pebbled ice, with a garnish of mint leaves and red radish shavings. The menu was a little tough on the vegetarian, so we asked for the oven-baked Berber omelet, delicately flavored with cumin and black pepper, without the meat, and the extremely helpful staff obliged with a fluffy and light offering that had a delicious crispy edge. We saved the best until last—Moroccan-style Tajine local chicken, gently stewed in a earthenware pot shaped like a magician's hat with potatoes, carrots, mangetout, prunes and raisins so that the flavors collide in a sweet, rustic sauce.
The dessert menu is a mixture of sweet potato, chestnut and bean jams and fruits—Japanese with a twist. The wonderful Jordan ice cream (¥680) proved the most unique of the lot, the thick, gooey, gummy texture with a hint of honey, nutmeg and cinnamon served in a long dish with banana, pistachio, mint and a baklava pastry stick. The mint tea (¥450) was, as always, the perfect digestif. This is a great venue for a party rather than for an intimate meal for two, and be warned that tables can only be booked for groups of four or more, so you will probably have to wait. With reliably good food, impromptu dancing on the night, and excellent service that gave us time to enjoy the meal, surely the genie had fulfilled our three wishes. Joher Anjari

Le Aladdin, 6F Musashinokaikan, 3-27-10 Shinjuku. Tel: 03-3351-3001. Credit cards accepted. Open: 5pm-5am, Sun 5pm-11pm. Nearest stn: Shinjuku. Menu: Japanese and English.