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Mediterranean eateries are good for bellies

January 31, 2008|BRIAN QUINES

Pass up kitschy knight or pirates and spice up your next night out with beautiful belly dancers and huge portions. Stop by a Middle Eastern restaurant where family-style dining and PG-13 entertainment combine for a very zesty night.

Discover a slice of Morocco in a dark, nondescript building in Costa Mesa. Stone walls, beautifully detailed wood tables, tents lavishly decorated with silk drapes and L-shaped couches covered in enough pillows to host a mean pillow fight make Marrakesh (1976 Newport Blvd., [949] 645-5384; www.marrakeshrestaurant.com) an authentic Moroccan experience (also with locations in Studio City and La Jolla).

Shy ladies and gents beware the belly dancers. I've seen timid men at the beginning of dinner service give into the dancer's seduction and shake their gluts and jiggle their guts by the end of the night. No alcohol needed.

Four different fixed menus (served family-style) with appetizers, main course and dessert are offered. First-timers should try the Marrakesh mixed grill ($32.95 per person), which includes appetizers, dessert and shrimp, chicken and lamb kebabs. Cultured guests can gorge on lamb brochettes, rabbit and quail offered in the Rabaty dinner ($27.95 per person).

The twinkling Vegas-style lights outside Golden Nights Mediterranean Restaurant (7115 Beach Blvd., Buena Park [714] 228-9730) may look like another tourist trap, but sumptuous style, fine cuisine and a vivacious atmosphere make this a local favorite.

The dining room fit for a king boasts huge chandeliers dangling from the sky-painted ceiling, beautiful murals stretching from floor to ceiling and marble covering the floor.

But that's where the snootiness ends. Every Friday and Saturday night, the joint gets loud--actually downright rowdy--when live bands performing Middle Eastern music excite guests into a dancing frenzy. And throughout the festivities, belly dancers visit each table.

The fixed menu ($45), served family-style, starts with three types of hummus, tabouleh, baba ghanouj, grape leaves, falafel and cheese sliders. Save room for the main course of beef, chicken and ground beef kebabs and rice, all served family-style.

After the gluttonous episode, head to the enormous patio and dining area where middle-aged guests throw back wine like it's water and smoke hookah like it's going out of style.

-- BRIAN QUINES

THE GUIDE@LATIMES.COM

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