Tagine Dream: Moroccan Restaurant The Blue Fez Open In Salem
Salem, MA - Despite the relative diversity of the greater Boston food culture, Moroccan cuisine has been historically underrepresented. There have been exceptions, of course—Harvard Square’s sorely missed Café Algiers and Charlestown veteran Tangierino—but by and large, it remains largely overlooked, despite an estimated population of some 10,000 Moroccan Americans calling Boston home. Nasser Belghitti wants to change that; and he’s doing so in a city ore known for gaudy trinkets, overpriced seafood restaurants and the cloying stench of cheap Nag Champa incense filling the air—Salem, MA.
The Blue Fez, which opened in December in Salem’s Lappin Park (home of the much-coveted* Bewitched* sculpture thousands of nostalgic Americans flock to for kitschy photo opportunities daily during tourist season,) is the second venture for Belghitti. He says he was inspired to open his second eatery after the success of his Winthrop mainstay, Kasbah. However, if you’re expecting the relative glitz and show of Kasbah (complete with gratuitous belly dancing) or a rustic Algerian bistro out of a Paul Bowles short story, you may be mistaken.
“I wanted to keep it simple, comfortable, casual or dressy, the kind of place where I would like to hang out.”
If you were to ask most Salem residents about diverse eating options in the city, the might mention the Korean fried chicken chain Bonchon on Essex Street. Or the infamous chop suey sandwiches served at Salem Willow shack, Genghis House (yes, you can live without trying one. But would you really want to?) But Belghitti says he was drawn as much to the atmosphere of Salem as he was to fill an underserved niche.
“I made the right choice,” he says. “It’s a special place. I love the energy, love the vibes here.”
While Blue Fez does present numerous traditional Moroccan options, including tagine, falafel and roast lamb shank, you’ll also find Belghitti’s own personal takes on the North African cuisine—including duck served with dried apricots and cranberries in a Madeira port reduction and crab cake briwat served in phyllo dough; a process Belghitti says is as time consuming as it is rewarding.
“It is so fragile. And I preserve my own lemons and my spices have to be ground fresh. That takes time and I am an absolute fanatic about cutting tomatoes.They have to be perfectly symmetrical.”
“I just want people to have some good memories here,” he says. “I love bringing people to a good place, to have a good meal. It’s really a special thing to be able to feed people and then see them walking out after the meal with a smile on their face. They can’t know how grateful that makes me feel. It makes it all worth it.”
The Blue Fez is located at 118 Washington St in Salem and is open daily from 11:30 am - 1:00 am. For more information, visit <a href=”http://bluefezrestaurant.com/ target="_blank" rel="nofollow"bluefezrestaurant.com