For a long while now, the stretch of South Grand Avenue from Arsenal to Gravois has been home to a cornucopia of some of the area's best ethnic eateries. One of the most recent restaurants to set up shop in this vibrant area is Baida, which specializes in Moroccan cuisine, the first of its kind here. We dropped in a while back to see just what this new kid on the block has to offer.

Those who aren't familiar with Moroccan food will find Baida's menu readily approachable, as it features a good selection of recognizable dishes such as Broshettes (or skewered meats), and, of course, the ubiquitous couscous. As much as we love meat on a stick, though; for the sake of broadening our palates, we opted for the Briwat Trio ($7) a trey of deep-fried turnovers consisting of crispy phyllo dough stuffed with vegetables, chicken and beef. Though fried, these fritter-like savory pastries were fairly light thanks to the phyllo and proved to be a tasty, appetite-inducing starter.

In addition to hearty entrees like lamb chops, Baida has a selection of tajins, a traditional dish of various braised meats accompanied by vegetables and spices, and served in a conical clay vessel to keep the steam in until the last possible moment. We decided on the beef version, or Sahara Tajine ($17), though there also are chicken, rabbit, seafood, vegetable and meatball versions to be had. The clay pot made for an interesting presentation and was filled with plenty of the promised ingredients. The chunks of beef were on the tough side, though, and the advertised cumin, saffron and coriander were definitely in the background. The end result was more reminiscent of a good ol' beef stew. Tasty enough, but not particularly complex, flavor-wise.

The Moroccan Mixt Grill ($26), offers a lamb chop, a 4-oz cumin-rubbed ribeye, harissa-spiced chicken breast and a choice of either couscous or lentils (we chose the later). The chicken and lamb were well-cooked--we got our lamb medium rare and were pleased with the rosy red color and the texture. Again, as with the tajine, there was a definite dearth of spices in this dish. While this may make things more accessible to the general dining populace, we'd like to have the option of having more spice.

The Baida space is bright and inviting. It's split between a bar area and the main dining room, and there's plenty of elbow room in each. We recommend the slightly elevated seating by the front window, if available. It's a bit removed from the rest of the room and offers some quality people-watching perches.

Baida has the potential to be a real standout among the rich culinary offerings on South Grand. We're looking forward to seeing how this new kid evolves.

-- 3191 South Grand Ave., 932-7950,

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