Wednesday, April 4, 2012
While Morocco is located in Africa, it is also considered part of the Arab world. Located on the northwest corner of Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar, it is the westernmost of Arab countries. There are a few standards in the realm of Arab cuisine that can be found in many Arab restaurants and while they can be found in the cuisine of Morocco, there are also many differences and I really enjoy it. It is actually a cross between European and Middle Eastern cuisine. I have been to Marrakech with friends previously and decided to go for dinner last week. Located below ground, it doesn't really have an obvious front although there is a sign. While the furniture isn't anything to write home about, there are a lot of hanging carpets, and Moroccan accessories. While the pieces, tablecloths, and wall hangings look nice individually, taken all together can lead to a little bit of overload. There is also a flag and a poster of President Obama hanging in the back of the restaurant. I came early and was actually the first person there. It was a little dark in the place and I didn't see anyone so I wasn't sure if it was open. The host came out and seated me and we got things started. People started arriving shortly after I was seated so I didn't feel so uncomfortable. I started out with some tea. It was very hot (as it should be) but was pretty good. It was full of mint and had a floral taste. While I am not normally a tea drinker, I did really like this.
I started my meal with a standard that I will order whenever I see it on a menu, hummus. While it is pretty simple, it is pretty good and I do like it. It was served with slices of pita. This version of hummus was pretty good and it ended up being the only dish that didn't serve phyllo dough. I had decided to try several things that I had never had but surprisingly all had phyllo dough.The first dish using phyllo were the shrimp briwat rolls. The menu called them Moroccan egg rolls and while they were crisp layered pastry shells filled with multiple ingredients, I don't know if I would exactly call them egg rolls. The rolls were triangular and were filled with shrimp, vermicelli, onions, and spices and wrapped in phyllo. They were served with lemon slices. Biting into it, the interior looked kind of dark and I wasn't sure with the spices, if I actually tasted any shrimp. I did stick my finger into in order to try the filling on it's own and saw that yes, there was shrimp in it. I have to guess that the coloration had to come from the spices. It was crisp and spicy and a pretty good start. I will grant that this wasn't exactly the start, but I will always start with hummus the point that I would almost consider that the bread plate.
The next dish actually kind of reminded me of a larger version of the briwat. I had a Fish Pastille. A fish pastille is round dish of fish, shrimp, mushroom, and vermicelli wrapped in phyllo dough. It was also served with lemon to squeeze on the pastry shell.While it wasn't as spicy as the briwat and you could taste the fish and mushrooms as well as the shrimp and vermicelli, it was very similar to the briwat. While it was good, if I had known the two dishes were so similar, I may have ordered something different in order to get some variety.The dessert I had can actually be found all over the Mediterranean and I really like it. I had a slice of baklava. Also wrapped in phyllo dough, this pastry dish includes honey, almonds, walnuts, cinnamon, and cloves. It was very good and left me wishing that I had been given a bigger piece.
I like Marrakech. The food is good and the owner is friendly. While I would have preferred some variety in my dishes, that was my own fault and I will know again when I have a craving for Moroccan food again. What I will say is that they could really do with another person working the dining room. The place does seem to be popular and at times, the host seemed to be trying to run in three different directions at once.