Eating international fare locally eliminates the woes associated with transatlantic travel, such as jet lag and oar splinters. Stamp your palate’s passport with today’s Groupon to Zitoune in Mamaroneck. Choose between the following options:
- For $20, you get $45 worth of Moroccan fare Sunday–Friday.
- For $20, you get $40 worth of Moroccan fare Saturday.<p>
Alain Bennouna, owner and executive chef of Zitoune, inundates taste buds with cascading waves of Moroccan flavors and fragrances, which the New York Times described as “elegant, and a bit exotic” in its 2007 feature. Boasting an extensive menu of simmered meats and exotic spices, Zitoune sates patrons who prefer an air of mystery around meals with a multitude of courses. The duck b’steeya’s crisp strata of filo dough separates layers of braised duck, saffron, and almond beneath a snowfall of cinnamon and powdered sugar ($12). After slow cooking in a saffron-ginger sauce until it is tender enough to wrap tongues in a loving bear hug, boneless lamb shoulder adorns plates alongside french beans to create the lamb tagine ($26). Azzeddine’s special bass surrounds a marinated fillet of fish with rice-stuffed dates and couscous ($24). The restaurant’s wine list glazes parched throats with an array of crisp whites, hearty reds, and spritely rosés ready to augment entree flavors ($7+/glass).
Vibrantly cushioned seating and handmade crafts imported directly from Morocco fill the dining room as hanging lanterns cast their luminous gaze across the tiled expanse. Drifting through crowds with the grace of a yogi playing charades, belly dancers entertain diners on Friday and Saturday nights with undulating routines to rival the flowing tapestries.
Owner and chef Alain Bennouna uses traditional Moroccan spices and cooking techniques to create a menu of bold cuisine, which Westchester Magazine described as "incredible, hauntingly spiced food" when placing Zitoune on its The Year's 10 Best Restaurants list in 2008. Entrees of braised lamb and grilled chicken flood the senses with comforting aromas of saffron, honey, and ginger—ingredients that Alain regularly savored while growing up in Marrakesh.
Although Alain draws inspiration from French and American recipes, Moroccan influences definitely take the lead. In addition to serving slow-cooked meat and lentil stews in clay tagine pots, Chef Bennouna embraces the family-style aspect of his childhood cuisine by cooking entire 18- to 20-pound lambs for larger parties if given five days advance notice. The New York Times praised the chef's commitment to these homestyle touches in 2007, claiming, "Mr. Bennouna is in love with his native cuisine, and he wants you to love it too."
The food's vibrant eclecticism echoes the dining room's highly sensory decor. Copper-topped tables, arabesque tiles, and handcrafted textiles from Marrakesh marketplaces fill the sunset-orange space. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the restaurant invites belly dancers to perform, allowing them to sweep throughout the dining room and enthrall diners with their ability to recite the Gettysburg Address backwards.