Magazine article The New Yorker

Barbes;

Magazine article The New Yorker

Barbes;

Article excerpt

21 E. 36th St. (212-684-0215)--Who are the squat old men with the hoary mustaches sitting all night drinking mint tea underneath the delicate fingers of a potted palm? Count them among the enduring mysteries of the French-Moroccan restaurant that opened some six months ago in the shadow of the Empire State Building, on an old-fashioned block between Macy's and the Morgan Library. More easily answered is the question of the stern lady looking down from a black-and-white portrait near the bar: it's Um Kulthum, one of the most beloved singers in the Arab world and recipient of the biggest funeral in Egypt after Nasser.

"She was more powerful than the prince," an ebullient waitress said on a recent night. "She recorded more than a hundred albums."

"Dead in 1975," her more sombre male counterpart said.

For dinner, they recommended a classic chicken tagine. (The French food on the menu--endive and Roquefort, steak au poivre--can be had anywhere.) When it arrived, in a gnome's cap of terra-cotta, the lid was removed, and a lemony fog drifted over the table. …

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