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Cafe Centro

Cafe Centro is a great place for a group with contrary tastes. We dined there with friends who are oysters, beef, french fries and chocolate dessert people. They pronounced their oysters the best they have ever had, said that the steak was tender and cooked to perfection and told the waiter to tell the pastry chef that the marquise au chocolat was heavenly. We are perhaps more adventurous and wish New York had an authentic four-star Moroccan restaurant. During one visit, there were almost enough Levantine specialties–the menu is French/American/Moroccan–to make us happy. Bisteeya, a complex, intricate and lavish phyllo pie, stuffed with chicken, almonds, eggs and raisins is listed as a main course. Because of its richness we like it as a shared appetizer. A chicken tagine was made with spices and herbs indigenous to Moroccan cooking— preserved lemons, coriander, cumin and turmeric. But the "special," leg of lamb with Moroccan spices, was not really prepared Moroccan-style and was too fatty. However, the flageolet beans and mashed potatoes, neither of which are North African, that accompanied the lamb were delicious.

On another visit we tried the French food. Starters of foie gras with honey-glazed mangoes and sweetbreads with mushrooms and shallots were superb as were the well-flavored cassoulet and juicy herb-roasted chicken.

Cafe Centro, 200 Park Avenue (45th Street at Vanderbilt Avenue), New York, NY 10017. Tel. 212-818-1222. Lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, Monday to Saturday. Moderate. www.restaurantassociates.com/cafecentro

Spring 1995