Tizi Melloul works outside the well-worn Asian-American and California-fusion models, and it works well. The Middle Eastern motif greets you at the door with a row of wall-mounted, spice-laden scoops, beyond which is a heavy wooden door. Once inside you are immediately transported into a kind of Aladdin-meets-2001: A Space Odessy bar setting that will have you admiring at just how warm and comforting white can be. Beyond this are the dining rooms.
The main dining room, off to the left, is a square, tapestried tent of a room that has been so filled with plush reds and gold accents that you just about want to kick off your shoes, sit on a pillow and spend the night; behind the bar is a smaller room used for large parties where you can pretty much do exactly that. Keep this in mind on a Friday or Saturday night; without a reservation you might be waiting a while for a table ...
Into the warmth and comfort of these desert tents comes a parade of outstandingly spiced dishes. The winter menu has a multitude of selections that will warm your cockles (although admittedly some of the appetizers, while delicious, are frustratingly served in small, taste-sized portions).
The nine-entree menu offers plenty of choices to a wide range of palettes, and a selection of tagines seems to exist merely to make the choosing more difficult. For even the remotely daring, Tizi Melloul will reward you with a can't-lose set of options, all the while keeping you nestled cozily in the bosom of a world that's actually thousands of miles away.
Average cost: $10-$20