It's gone far beyond being a mere restaurant, this Moroccan night spot, and has taken on the character of a tourist attraction. You gain admittance by knocking at a wonderful brass-and- wood door on an otherwise shabby urban block. And you enter to glorious tile fountains and a gigantic room, a glamorous and exotic mix of painted walls and ceiling in Arabic designs, and low sofas with cushions every bit as splendid. Dinner is fixed-price, multicourse and long, broken in the middle by music and dancing, with diners pulled into the show.
You eat with your hands from communal platters, and the parade of courses is interesting -- if not always well executed. To start are three refreshing vegetable salads and coarse bread for scooping them, followed by bastilla, the chicken-egg-phyllo pie that is famous in Moroccan cuisine (but not because of Marrakesh's bland, dry version). Then comes chicken, seasoned with olives and lemons or prunes or hot spices, or rabbit also in various renditions; they are cooked until they fall off the bone easily, and are pleasant if not wonderful. Another meat choice comes next -- the lamb with chickpeas and onions has been particularly savory -- then a disappointing couscous, a generous bowl of fresh fruit and a small phyllo pastry that isn't very good, though it was delicious in Marrakesh's early days. Lovely mint tea refreshes you at the en.
Thus, three or four hours later you find yourself enormously full of exotic if not exceptional food, well cared for from all the washings of hands and hot towels, relaxed from lounging on lots of cushions, and feeling as if you have just taken a tour bus to Disney World East. 617 New York Ave. NW. 393- 9393. D $18. D daily. No credit cards. Res req. Full bar.