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French-Morroccan in San Mateo--Café Tradition

pilinut May 2, 2011 11:17 PM

We just returned from our first dinner at Café Tradition, and we are quite pleased. Though it's not the same thing as the late lamented Laurel Street Café, decent French food is hard to come by outside San Francisco, and French-Moroccan is even harder to find. This place, open just 3 months, helps fill a big gap in our restaurant repertoire, and I hope that it will grow, improve, and evolve into an asset to the Peninsula dining scene.

As entrées, our party had green salad, onion soup, merguez, and escargots. The first two were middling, but the escargots, served out of shell, with puff pastry, in a garlic-herb cream sauce were quite good, and DH thoroughly enjoyed the homemade merguez and harrissa.

Main courses: chicken en brochette seasoned with chermoula (which I did not manage to try), Atlantic salmon with fresh artichokes and asparagus, lamb and chickpeas with couscous, red snapper tagine (didn't get a taste of this one), scallops and prawns with pasta in a seafood cream sauce, and the lamb tagine with honey, prunes, raisins, and almonds. Everything I tasted was well executed, though not inspired. The lamb in my tagine was perfectly braised--moist, fork-tender, with just the right amount of melt-in-the-mouth fat--but the flavor balance of the sauce tilted too far towards the sweet for my taste. The lamb couscous was not bad, with the meat again very nicely cooked but it could have been more interesting.

Dessert was the best part of dinner: a crème brulée, lightly sweetened and scented with orange blossom water, a vacherin filled with homemade berry ice cream, and a very light frozen nougat flavored with honey and dried fruits. The desserts alone would merit another visit.

Café Tradition
123 W 25th Ave
San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 345-2233