Nabil Hach Al-
"I offered to pay for his vacation, to delay it, but he refused," says the 46-year-old, Moroccan-born Al-
Four years later, the cook is gone and Al-
In the beginning, things were hectic, but he had learned his craft in a cramped apartment in the projects on the outskirts of Paris. There, his mother would coax chicken, rabbit, and lamb into the savory-sweet stews called tagines for her four children. As Al-
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He knew he wanted to do Moroccan food. But he also knew the painstaking preparations required would be nearly impossible to execute in his cramped space. "I figured I could present Moroccan flavors very well and blend them with some French ingredients and techniques," he recalls.
These days, he fills delicate quail ($30.95) with an aggressively spiced homemade version of the North African lamb sausage merguez. Then he crisps the minuscule birds and places them in a fragrant apricot sauce. For another dish, he showers fleshy branzino ($34.95) in a North African array of spices called ras el
The blending of North African and French cuisines is nothing new. France ruled much of North Africa, often brutally, for nearly a century, from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. The food served at Rouge is a silver lining in this dark cloud of history.