The movie 300 depicts Persian king Xerxes’ decadent lair: plush tapestries, muted lighting and opulent metallic touches lend themselves to hedonistic indulgence. Dining at Tangerine is much like spending an evening in such a harem, though perhaps without the concubines. From the time you enter Tangerine’s majestic portals, you’ll feel millions of miles away from Market Street.
From the outside, the restaurant looks unassuming – inside, black gauzy curtains separate several dining areas. The flickering candles along one wall cast alluring shadows, giving the room an exotic and bewitching air.
It’s more for this ambience than the food that people return to Tangerine. The fare draws upon Mediterranean (read: French, Italian, North African and Levantine) influences, and most dishes are as entrancing as the surroundings.
We began with the Harissa barbequed lamb, served on rosemary socca bread and accompanied by a vegetable salad dominated by eggplant ($13). The salad was a deliciously cool complement to the perfectly-salted lamb, and alone, the dish would have been perfect. The socca bread, however, was too heavy. We also ordered the grilled kobe sirloin, plated with a beet rissole ($16). Kobe is used to being the prima ballerina, but the beet rissole outshone its partner with its crispy covering and moist red flesh.
The grilled fish al limone ($30) was outstanding. Grilled simply in olive oil and lemon, the white fish achieved the ideal ratio of meatiness to flakiness. The cold asparagus, red peppers, falafel and lentil and beet salad made for a veritable rainbow on the plate, and the crisp pita crackers with tzatziki added a playful touch. The seared duck di vento ($28) was hearty in its gaminess, and molded well with the creamy polenta and currant jus pooling beneath it. The polenta, however, was too thin to balance the rib-stickiness of the duck, and appeared limp when engulfed by the currant jus.
A chocolate mille feuille ($10) was a less-than-perfect dessert, though its presentation was earnest. A deconstructed chocolate almond cake made us appreciate Derrida more, but only one of its elements, the chocolate cream, charmed our pallet. We’ll try the lemon trio next time.
Even with its slight flaws, Tangerine functions as an escape to a rich culinary world that provides pleasure on several levels.
Tangerine 232 Market St. (215) 627-5116 Don’t Miss: The grilled fish al limone Skip: Seared duck di vento Bottom Line: Need a break from Philly? Bring your parents.