Sometimes we need to escape into another reality, a suspension of disbelief that evokes all of our romantic and sensual impulses. Impulses that our day-to-day lives can so rarely afford to accommodate. I was recently awarded the opportunity to indulge in such an escape and to enjoy the delights of the exotic in a tiny restaurant that still summons images of romance.

        As I walked into the establishment, I was embraced by a moment of surrender. A soft surrender into the lavish invitation of low-slung seats covered with jewel tones and exotic cloth. Invited by gesture and smile, I sank into another world enveloped in nuances, scents, and the sweet promise of things yet untasted. I looked up to see the enclosing draperies of a tent. I was in Morocco. Yet, only seconds before I had been on the sidewalk in Santa Barbara, California.

        The server came to the deeply incised brass tabletop bringing the first of what would be a constantly renewing round of personal service. A thick, soft towel was gently placed in my lap and warm water poured over my hands from the silver chaliced device that then caught the run off. From the touch of the first drop I was already far removed from the world I had left at the door.

        The Chef Karim Restaurant features a ceremonial feast to incite and delight the senses. The restaurant is the pride of Chef Karim and he is very much in evidence through out the meal, bowing his guests to their tables and solicitously ensuring their pleasure.

        You come to eat but you linger to enjoy a riot of applause that erupts when the belly dancer appears just inches from your table. The art they practice is sensuous, fun and generously joyful. Patrons are invited to get up and join in and many do. On the evening I was there, dancer and patrons took their gentle play out onto State Street, to amaze pedestrians.

        Throughout the evening, your senses are fed by the ambiance and by the thoughtfully prepared courses of food that follow, one, after another, to your table. Come prepared to eat with your fingers using bread to mop up every last smudge of the spicy savory food.

The feast begins with soup; a glowingly piquant blend that whets the appetite for more. But, you need to be careful. Seconds, available on request, would limit the number of delights you could consume. Next, you will use Moroccan bread, fresh baked, to sop up Moroccan salad that bears no resemblance to salad, as you know it. Choices on the menu include Saffron Chicken, Rabbit stewed in Tomato, Lamb spiced with Ginger, and a Vegetarian Feast. I recommend a glass or bottle of Moroccan wine to perfect the meal.

As if this lavish interlude were not enough, there is more. Special parties are available and ladies can enjoy a dancer of the very male and talented variety. With a party of eight to twelve people, you can enjoy exclusive use of the Pasha Room, giving you privacy, a view of the restaurant and a chance to share this majestically sensuous experience.

So if you are going to be traveling to southern California, Chef Karim's Restaurant is definitely worth the stop. For reservations call (805)899-4780

© Melt Magazine 2001