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Cafe scores often, and you won't go baroque

In the beginning, God created Jewish dietary laws, and it's within this context that the merits of a kosher restaurant ought to be discussed. Such a resource exists because its clientele has a more-compelling reason than mere caprice for patronizing it. Sizing it up against the greater body of restaurants in the area is like pitting mock shrimp against roast loin of pork. It's an invalid comparison. That said, save a few inconsistencies, Mozart Cafe stacks up quite well as a dining experience, whether or not one is an observant Jew or even a Gentile.

First impression: It's bright, cheery and welcoming at Mozart. It's a place for families, older couples, ladies on a night out, yeshiva boys meeting with their teacher after Shabbat services and (far away from them, out on the terrace) a teenage-girls-only birthday party — all of which we witnessed. If you're looking for a quiet, intimate evening, in a word, fuggedaboudit.

Nosherei: Mozart's menu is eclectic, containing Italian, Middle Eastern and Asian elements. Nowhere is this fusion more apparent — or successful — than in the avocado egg-roll appetizer (a little pricey at $10.50, but shareable). The sliced cylinders are crisply deep-fried, with a spicy guacamole stuffing that contains red onion and sun-dried tomato. The dipping sauce is a pestolike creation that by itself is overly sweet but works well as a foil to the piquancy of the roll.

Larger dishes: From the ordinary-tasting baked ziti to the rustic pasta (one cut above Chef Boyardee quality, both $14.95), one may conclude that pasta dishes are not Mozart's strong suit. That's not a problem — just avoid them and concentrate on the dishes at which the restaurant excels.

A standout is the falafel platter, a good value at $10.95. Falafel, the quintessential Middle Eastern buttonlike fritter of crushed chickpeas, herbs and spices, is some of the best we've tasted. It comes with a generous amount of hummus, tahini (a sauce made from crushed sesame), a large portion of Israeli salad (chopped tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and onions) and stuffable pita wedges for conveying the whole carnival of flavors to your mouth. If you order only one thing, get this. It makes a great appetizer for four.

A marquee dish is the sesame-crusted-seared-tuna entree ($28.95), topped with ultra-thin sweet-potato fries and served on an oversize oval platter with a melange of sauteed vegetables. It's a generous slab of sushi-grade fish, and the one small complaint is that the searing process cooked the interior a little too much.

Faleyda (as in, "Let's save some room faleyda"): Of special note were the "cake pops" (three for $7.50), which looked just like Tootsie Roll Pops but were actual spheres of cake with various frostings. It's an ingenious presentation, and delivers just a schmeck without all the calories of a full portion.

Service: Friendly, cheerful, attentive and informative. Our waiter hailed from Long Island, with an accent to match. You can't get much more authentic than that.

To sum up Mozart Cafe: Ess gezunterheyt! (Bon appetit!)

Mozart Cafe

7300 W. Camino Real, Boca Raton


Cuisine: Kosher eclectic

Cost: Moderate

Hours: Breakfast, lunch, dinner Sunday through Thursday. Friday, breakfast and lunch only (closing at 3 p.m. for the Sabbath), Saturday opens at 7:30 p.m. for dinner only.

Reservations: Accepted

Credit cards: All

Bar: Beer and wine only

Sound level: Conversational

Outside smoking: Yes

For kids: Highchairs and a children's menu

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