PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos – Lemon Café is a Moroccan oasis amid the hard, dry landscape of Providenciales. It is the brainchild of owner Natalie Zaidan, 35, a Canadian expat who visited the island as a child. Zaidan, who has lived here for 12 years, does high-end landscaping and owns a nursery. She designed and built Lemon Café a couple of years ago.
Chef John Tsavalas, a childhood friend of Zaidan, has created a superb Moroccan menu with tapas treats such as spicy calamari, rice-stuffed tender merguez, silky couscous, and perfectly prepared baba ghanoush. Exemplary entrees include North African moussaka with eggplant, lamb burger with yogurt mint cucumber sauce, and the most popular dish, lamb prune tagine, simmered for hours with such ingredients as honey, cinnamon, and clove. Tsavalas’s most recent creations include a sumac-rubbed rib eye roast and lobster with preserved lemon.
The place is dimly lighted and wonderfully moody with bench seating on the perimeter of the open-to-the-elements sides, smaller tables and communal ones in the middle, a glitzy, soft-orange-lighted bar at one end, and gauzy accent drapes billowing from the high ceiling.
The most popular place to eat at night is the elegant courtyard, with two-foot stone squares surrounded by lush grass and draped by ficus trees, from which small white lights shine. Entertainment includes regular “Arabian Nights” with belly dancing, tarot card readings, and Tsavalas doubling as a fire spinner on occasion, delighting diners by whirling lighted poi balls.
Zaidan planted a garden to furnish the restaurant with fresh vegetables and herbs. The organic meats are flown in regularly, said Zaidan, who opened the restaurant to “provide a change of food down here. A lot of it was sort of the same, I wanted to do something different.”
PAUL E. KANDARIAN
Lemon Café, Village at Grace Bay, 649-941-4059, www.lemon-cafe.com. Mon-Sat lunch and dinner, noon-3 p.m., 6-10, Sun 6-10, entrees from $17.
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