Marrakesh (DC) - pricing?
I'm going to Marrakesh for a friend's birthday celebration on Saturday for the first time. Have heard good things about the entertainment value but have also seen the threads on this board indicating the food's just so-so.
I've eaten at Casablanca in Alexandria, where I recall the menu was primarily fixed price ($ per person with different levels depending on how many entrees the entire party agreed to). I'd had a similar reaction there -- fun belly dancing; sitting on the lounges was fun, but the food wasn't memorable.
How does the pricing work at Marrakesh? Is it similarly prix fixe? A la carte? Excluding drinks, about how much should I expect to be spending for so-so food but good entertainment?
I went a few years ago and yes, it was prix-fixe. The food was the worst I have ever had around here to be honest, but the entertainment was great. Five or so years ago it was around $40 a head for a 5 course meal, but prices may have gone up since then. I would think you'd be spending close to $60-$70 a person after drinks.
Here is the menu and please let us know how it went. I want to go back for the entertainment but I am curious if we can sit at the bar and watch without eating. Would you mind finding out and report back?
That pricing sounds about right to me. Prix-fixe. It's very important to note that they do NOT take credit cards. They do have an ATM in the building.
I've been a couple times (like 4 or 5) and the food's always been the same. It's ok, but not (IMHO) hound-worthy. It's entertaining and a good dining "experience," especially with larger groups. Can't speak as to its authenticity, because I haven't had a lot of Moroccan cuisine.
They do have vegetarian options, but you may have to remind them during your meal. Otherwise there really aren't any menu choices to make... the menu displayed on their website (if you go to http://www.marrakesh.us and leave off the "menu.cfm" it'll come up) suggests that there are choices, but I've never been asked for what I want. I think those are more along the lines of, "if it's Tuesday you might get X, and if it's Friday you might get Y."
I've gone every few years for nearly 20 years. The menu hasn't changed since the day I first went.
You do get choices at the two main courses (the chicken course and the meat course), but the choice is for the entire table - not each person.
As people pointed out, the environment and experience is better than the food, which is passable. I recommend the Chicken with Olives and Lamb Tajine for your two options.
Reporting back... the menu itself is $30/person. In the Saturday evening rush, the service initially was very slow. Took our party of 12 a full 30 minutes after our 8:30 reservation to be seated, and quite a while before a waiter approached our lounging area (tables?) after that. I think it was as much because they were frantically washing glasses in the back that it took us 20 minutes to get wine glasses and water glasses well after the bottles of wine appeared on our tables, and then another 10-15 minutes before someone explained how the menu would work (they don't, by the way, tell you how much per person the menu is at the beginning -- we just found out at the end when we got our bill). Food started arriving around 9:45. I guess I would have expected an institution such as Marrakesh, which has been around as long as it has, to have the Saturday evening rush down to an art.
It's a 7 course menu as stated on their website, with middle course an option between Lamb and Beef. We had the lamb with honey and almonds and quite enjoyed it. I found the food to be ok to slightly above average. It wasn't actually as bad I went in expecting based on many of the reviews online, but the food itself wasn't particularly chow-worthy either. I enjoyed the experience quite a lot and was more entertained by the belly-dancing performance and restaurant atmosphere than I thought I'd be.
Walked out the door at $60/person (after tax and tip) because our group was celebrating a birthday and had several bottles of wine and champagne.
Oh- and to answer the question above -- no, no utensils are provided and it's very much an "eat with your hands" experience. Only exception to that is the cous-cous course, which was served with a spoon for each person, although as I understand authentically Moroccan cuisine involves eating cous-cous with your hands too.