Nabil Hach al-Luch and his wife, Elena Bernatskaya, run Rouge Cine Café with silent movies projected on a wall inside and a garden patio filled with lime trees, blackberry brambles and passion fruit vines with fountains and a fireplace. The cuisine is French with a few Moroccan stews served in earthenware dishes, good with a glass of wine or mint tea to transport you to Marseille or Marrakesh.
Nabil is a Berber from the mountain region of northern Morocco, but grew up in Toulouse, France, where his mother worked in a factory and taught him to cook. He came to Miami 20 years ago to visit a friend, and decided to stay. Elena sold restaurant equipment in Moscow and was studying English here when the two met in a cafe. They married and turned the old Lemon Twist space into a place to call their own last January with Nabil as the chef.
Sit at a tiled, wrought-iron table on the patio listening to Spanish, Middle Eastern or French chanteuse music and order house-made chicken gizzard confit over mixed greens or seared duck and fig sausage topped with caramelized onions and porcini mushrooms.
On a recent visit (the menu changes with the seasons), there was Moroccan harira (lamb soup) seasoned with celery, cilantro, lemon and spices thickened with chickpea flour and tomato paste with a side of dates. There is usually slow-simmered lamb with prunes served with couscous and Cornish hen tagine with raisins, carrots, artichoke hearts and fat green olives in a mild broth.
There’s also braised lamb shank, pan-seared diver scallops with mashed potatoes and seafood bouillabaisse. Desserts change daily. Look for lemon ricotta cheesecake or chocolate mousse and linger in this place of magical charm.