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Chowfind: Marrakech (Moroccan) 1326 Danforth

The place looks like a working man's cafe. It may be a bit off-putting but don't be. Wonderful meals can come out of places like this and the owner is friendly.

No catering to tourists here - as far as I know authentic Moroccan. The chef-owner- bottlewasher has a nice touch. And incredibly cheap.
I had a harira soup, small chopped tomato salad, and chicken couscous, all for $14 total including taxes, and everything was very good.

I want to mention the chicken couscous in particular. An enormous mound of couscous, a generous topping of chick peas, raisins and cooked onion (beautiful, a bit sweet, chicken leg with back.
Nicely but gently spiced. I searched out every morsel on the plate. Share it the first time; if you want to move on to another dish.

A short menu, and not everything on the menu is available. That's good- Moroccan cooking doesn't do well a s left overs.

The chef-owner-bottlewasher tells me that he cooks in the style of Fez.

Try beating this meal in interest, quality and price!

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  1. we drove by it this week. wasn't sure if people already talked about it a while back.
    sounds like its worth a try

    1. A friend and I ate there last night. Harira (a comforting soup of chickpeas and noodles) was good, albeit a bit heavy on the black pepper. Chicken couscous was lovely, and pretty much as Vinnie describes above. Very generous portion.

      They didn't have any bastilla last night, so ordered beef tagine instead. Dark and very sweet sauce, and topped with two hard-boiled eggs. The beef itself was dry and stringy, which ruined what could've been a delectable dish.

      Finished off with sweet mint tea.

      Two harira soups, one chicken couscous and one beef tagine (both of which were accompanied by a chopped tomato salad that resembled pico de gallo) and two mint teas came out to $28. Maybe the teas were complimentary, because we didn't ask for it. The owner/server is a really, really nice man.

      Marrakech is a good Mom & Pop antidote to the appalling Sultan's Tent/Cafe Maroc.

      8 Replies
      1. re: TheGloaming

        Any chance this place is licensed? We recently had dinner at Walima Cafe, also Moroccan and just down the street from this place (1450 Danforth). The food was amazing, and the only thing that would have made it better was a glass of red wine.

        Either way, I'll have to check this place out since it's in my neighbourhood.

        1. re: TOFoodFan

          We had dinner at Walima a few weeks ago and were very disappointed.
          dh had the lamb shanks which he said were delicious. It was all downhill from there though. My son had the chicken kebabs, they would have been tasty but they were over-cooked and very dry. My daughter had chicken bisteeya. It was full of flavour but again, really, really dry. I almost wanted some yogurt or something to pour over it just to give it some moisture. I had the veg couscous. It was... ok. that's all. just meh. and ok.
          For dessert we ordered an almond cookie - again with the dry, only this time dry and crumbly. And a piece of baklava. meh.
          Overall it was just such a let down that we won't be returning. There are so many better places to go.

          1. re: summ3r

            I just had dinner at Walima (1450 Danforth). It was so disappointing. Slow service, and 3 of the 6 mains ordered at our table were pretty much inedible. I had the bastilla, which I actually liked, but no one else of the party of 6 were happy. The beef tagine was tasteless and basically a hunk of gristle in a bowl of watery, tasteless broth. There was no way to eat the meat. My husband sent his back after attempting to get a piece of meat off the bone to no avail (other beef tagine eater was too polite/shy! and nibbled a bit of hers and left the rest untouched) and then was charged for it when we got the bill. Lamb tagine also tough and tasteless. The chicken tagine was ok and another lamb dish was rated as 'ok'. But the ensuing disagreement over my husband's beef still being on the bill was appalling. The waiter (only one working/visible) was rude, mean and vile. It was embarrassing and we will NEVER go back there. He threw my mother's debit card in anger and then was rude to us. If anyone can recommend a good Moroccan restaurant, please post.

            1. re: Shoops

              Wow, that does sound appalling!

              1. re: Shoops

                That sounds terrible! Perhaps service has improved since then? I went there tonight, with the intention of going to Marrakech but my friend said she's been eyeing Walima for awhile so we went there instead (birthday girl :)). It was my first time trying Moroccan food so I don't have anything to compare it to but the lamb shank tangine was very tender, meaty and sweet with figs and apricots, the seafood couscous had a nice texture with flavourful whitefish (although very skimpy on the calamari, I think there were only a few pieces), and we had the chicken bastilla which was a little too sweet for my taste, but as it was my first time trying bastilla I can't give a comparative opinion. The appetizer (a trio of dips with toasted pita) was okay - nothing to get excited about but a nice start to the meal. It was an okay meal, not amazing but not as terrible as some have experienced.
                Anyways, the waiter and waitress were both very nice and attentive, the waiter was cheerful with customers as he served mint tea. The service was quite good, it's been a whole year so maybe the mean waiter has since left.

                Anyways, when I get a chance I'd like to try Marrakech to compare!

                Walima Cafe
                1450 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J, CA

            2. re: TOFoodFan

              Please describe your dinners. I have had mixed experiences there.

              1. re: TOFoodFan

                I doubt you will find alcoholic drinks in most Morrocan restaurants. That's like expecting to order bacon or shellfish in a Jewish restaurant.

                1. re: foodyDudey

                  Depends on the background of the owners. At one time, most of the few Moroccan restaurants in Toronto were owned by Jews and a couple were even kosher.

                  The Sultan's Tent serves alcohol, though I'm not inclined to eat there.

            3. This week I had the ground beef kebob at Marrakech. Very good , lots to eat, came with a not bad resurrected baguette and a chopped tomato side salad. $6 including tax. Marrakech express food. Hide in embarrassment, Mc.D!
              With a bowl of , its a very good and interesting lunch for $10 .

              I was told by teh owner that he is a graduate in English Literature from a Moroccan university.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                Oh, too bad he didn't minor in geography...why did he name the place 'Marrakech', if it's Fez style cooking? Just kidding...I think that regional food differences aren't too dramatic in Morocco, since it's a fairly small country. I can't wait to try Marrakech.

                1. re: Yongeman

                  Marrakesh used to be the name of Morocco back in the day.

                  It's a bit more complicated than that - but that's good enough for here.

                  1. re: radiopolitic

                    good point, radiopolitic. Thanks for the clarification. Your meal sounded fantastic.

                2. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                  I asked for a "Moroccan burger" I liked even better than the ground beef kebob. The flavours were brighter. On a baguette with sliced tomato and onion which I used as toppings. $5 all in. Makes the gourmet burger places seem silly.
                  But ask Abdul not to flatten teh patty when he cooks it.

                3. Did you happen to notice if it's a veg-friendly place in terms of dishes? (I'm also curious about whether it's liquor licensed..)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Ediblethoughts

                    There is a vegetarian couscous, $10 including tax. Islam prohibits alcohol, so no.

                    1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                      Thanks for the info. Will add to the list of To Do in the East.

                  2. I ate here last night and loved it. It was without a doubt the most authentic Moroccan food I've had outside of Morroco. I agree, the owner Abdul is a friendly, humble guy who is proud of his food.
                    I recommend the Moroccan coffee. Try the 'kahwa mehersa,' or 'nes nes,' where the espresso, milk and foam is seperated into distinct layers. Sadly, we were the only ones in the restaurant during the dinner hour last night. Let's keep this place in business!

                    1. Been meaning to try this place, Saturday looks like the day.

                      Are they only open for dinner, or is lunch an option?

                      1. Went with my husband last weekend, went again tonight with my parents. Lovely food--chicken couscous as Vinnie describes it, lamb tagine and beef tagine, both very tender, ringed with soft prunes and accompanied by warmed French bread. There was more than enough for the four of us. Owner is pleasant and thoughtful. While we were there, a handful of customers had their tea and coffee at a table pulled up to the bench outside, and a big group was having a birthday party on the sofas in the back. Relaxed and friendly place and an incredible bargain.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sourcherrypie

                          Yes, that was us... we stay hours drinking tea or coffee but it's not boring at all, we forget about the stress that can be caused by life in Toronto, and we discuss about different subjects. And believe me, Moroccans always have a lot to say and discussions can be very stimulating compared to having a coffee at Tim Hortons (although it's addictive!). When you see us around, come over if you want to chat a bit, we are all very friendly. And you are RIGHT, the food there is authentic, being moroccan myself and a pretty good cook, I can say it's worth 100 times the insulting "Moroccan" cliche given to the Sultan's Tent. Also to reply to all of you who commented on the alcohol: it's a personal choice, nothing to do with religion. Morocco is full of bars and most of the restaurants and cabarets serve alcohol. Seems that our people are more open-minded back home! Hey, and who said Marrakech used to be the name of Morocco back in the day? Marrakech was the imperial city, but I've never heard that. Please, enlighten me!

                          1. re: Sousou

                            Thanks for the info on the alcohol. I'd be there if they were liquor licensed---part of a relaxing dinner out for me is... eh-hem... wine!

                        2. Went with a friend tonight. Each of us had a bowl of harira soup and we split a lamb tagine and chicken couscous. Spot on on description of the couscous Vinnie.

                          The lamb tagine was really tender and full of flavour, we wiped that plate dry with our bread it was so tasty.

                          Abdul is an incredibly nice fellow. The three of us sat around and spoke for a while to start. After dinner the owner let us use his room downstairs for prayer and then we had a large pot of tea. He came back and talked with us about politics and humanity for a good half hour. Throughout the night there was a crowd of Arab gentleman who pulled out chairs and sat on the sidewalk in front of the window drinking tea for hours. Reminded me of growing up in the Middle East. When it came time to pay he at first refused our tip but upon insisting he graciously accepted. After promises of return and many inshallah's back and forth we departed. I'll definitely be returning when I'm back in town.

                          1. I had the chicken bastilla today as a trial. I have had bastilla twice elsewhere- it was OK but didn't understand why it was so famous. Generally I am reluctant to order this dish because I am afraid of getting something that has sat around.
                            Hard to describe it. Briefly, it is a chicken pie, but this one was to the others what Willie Mays was to journeymen baseball players.
                            Maybe I got lucky and caught it at the right time in the cycle. Maybe I don't know the dish and I am wrong- I would like to hear from someone who is more familiar with Moroccan cooking.

                            Bastilla is sweet and has ground walnuts in it. The individual pie looked small but ate big. Came cut into four; share it and then share something else.

                            1. I give it a "B".

                              I recently spent a month in Morocco. The owner of Marrakech said he was from Fes - which is probably the best culinary city in Morocco. The pre-dinner sweet mint tea was great. Loved it - just like in Morocco.

                              My main complaint: extreeeemely slow. The 4 dishes arrived about 30 minutes apart, even though there was only 1 other table there. It got a little torturous waiting for each dish.

                              Second complaint: half of the dishes on the menu weren't available. That can potentially mean that more care is given to making each dish... I don't know.

                              The meal:
                              1) Harira - great. The soup is pretty varied in Morocco, and the version at Marrakech restaurant is pretty authentically Moroccan. A bit too thick though.

                              2) Chicken couscous - pretty good. Not great. Large serving. Spiced too mildly. Too little "garnish" (chick peas, raisins, etc). Decent, not great.

                              3) Lamb tagine - okay. 2 shanks with fava beans. Not in a tagine. Not like any food I've had in Morocco. But tasted okay. Not great.

                              4) Chicken bastilla - mediocre. The filling was more of a minced chicken salad, than anything identifiable. Vinnie V (above) said there were walnuts in it... It does taste like it, but the owner said there were no nuts - that it was grains. One person in my party was allergic to nuts, and he was okay with the bastilla. But I really wasn't impressed with the dish.

                              A good dinner, not great - but good to see more Moroccan places opening in Toronto.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: bellywizard

                                I am surprised that there were no walnuts in the pastilla; I must ask what was the grain. The grain is a very good substitute and I have a child who has a nut allergy.
                                I have recently had yet someone else's bastilla,- that someone else a very good cook- and I still say that Marrakech's version is divine. I wonder if yours came to you at the end of its "shelf life".
                                I understand that the authentic way to make bastilla is with pigeon. I don't think that anyone will use pigeon here. Every bastilla that I have had has minced the meat and treated it; all came from good Moroccan cooks.
                                Slow service is explainable. Abdul is a one man show. Its not so bad and look on the bright side. The wait facilitates an authentic experience. In Morocco the dish is communal. So at Marrakech, share. You get to dine in leisure, with the dishes arriving after a proper interval.
                                The Ms. and I enjoyed this system of sequential shared dishes before we got married.

                                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                  I have not tried bastilla (also written b'stilla), but I have 3 or 4 cookbooks that are either Moroccan or Pan-Middle Eastern (covering Greece and North Africa as well). What I understand is that there are almonds, ultra-fresh pigeon that is first simmered with a variety of sweet and savoury spices and seasonings, then pulled apart with forks (just like pulled pork). The pastry is handmade, but filo pastry is a passable substitute. The pies are baked, then dusted with confectioner's sugar and cinnamon. It's an odd flavour combo for western palates, but is a famous dish from Morocco, particularly Fez, so should be sampled at least once in one's life. I'd love to try an authentic version, but I may have to return to Morocco and seek it out.

                                  It's interesting that the owner of Marrakech makes his with grains and not nuts. Perhaps it is a regional variation ... or else the owner has adapted the recipe to be friendly to nut allergy sufferers.

                              2. I drove by Marrakech the other day and it looked like there were sheets or paper taped up over all the widows. I'm hoping they were shooting a movie or doing reno's, cus it would be really sad if it already went under. Awesome food and the owner is a great guy. Anyone know if it's still open??

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: aj_toronto

                                  I was at Hot Pot last night and the signs on Marrakech say that they're renovating. Hopefully the prices won't go up too much, if at all.

                                  1. re: radiopolitic

                                    Glad to hear that its not closing. Four of us went there about 6 weeks ago. Really enjoyed the food and followed the owner's recommendations because we'd never eaten Moroccan food before. We had the chicken couscous (I had no idea that couscous could be so tasty) and the beef tagine, Both full of flavour, lots of meat and huge portions. The chicken couscous came first (definitely not a place to eat at if you have to be somewhere else in a hurry). We thought he'd forgotten to bring the other dish or confused the order and thoroughly enjoyed it. And were quite full with room for caffe lattes and mint tea. Then he asked us if were ready for out next dish I laughed. thinking he was kidding. But no. The next dish was the beef tagine (my favourite) with a little loaf of bread each! I wish I'd had more room. The beef was tender, not fatty or gristly, saucy without being soupy, and the richness and mellow sweetness of the prunes were the best part. My mother (from Scotland so go figure) used to make beef stew with prunes so this brought back amazing taste memories. Had originally hoped to order the Batilla but there was none left that night. We all enjoyed the fact that there were many layers of flavour without one flavour or spice being overwhelming. Synergistic I guess, on their own many of the ingredients could be bland or uninteresting but the taste combinations really hit the mark for me. Something with veggies would be a nice complement to the meat laden meal. Maybe the renovation will include some menu changes. But I sure hope the owner's obvious love for food, and his welcoming spirit will remain.

                                    1. re: radiopolitic

                                      hope you start a thread on Hot Pot. i wondered if that place was any good.

                                      1. re: atomeyes

                                        They used to have food and good food at that. No longer the case, something about a management change I believe.

                                        It's a hookah/coffee joint.

                                        I go there to unwind with friends, smoke shisha for hours and drink mint tea. It can get very smokey in there, they do occasionally air it out via the back door though.

                                        If that's what you're looking for then by all means but I think they serve fries and some other little snacks and nothing else as far as food goes.

                                        Just a word of warning - if you're not Middle Eastern of some kind or don't speak Arabic you may feel a bit out of place.

                                        1. re: atomeyes

                                          Hot Pot used to have good food. Then they went into some kind of change of management/philosophyand now I don't make it a destination spot any more.

                                          1. re: atomeyes

                                            Hot pot..... I have a couple years worth of memories there.

                                            The food is alright, if you want to just eat and enjoy your tea and shisha. I usually get the "Kabsa with lamb" which is not really kabsa in any way shape or form, with laban (plain yogurt), but you can also get it with salad. All in all, its a decent dish wish a generous portion.

                                            Their shisha is verryyy decent for Canada. I can only name one place better! They also have many drinks and sodas you can find back home in arab countries (miranda, fayrouz, barbican (I think, or many drinks like it), laban 3ayran... cant think of any more, but they're there). They also make a great morrocan tea.

                                            If you like shisha and want a bite to eat, give it a try!

                                            A place with better shisha, and also a good selection of sodas and such is Casa Blanca down the street. The shisha is great!!!!!

                                      2. @Radiopolitic were you referring to Marrakech or Hotpot? Anyhoo, I finally saw the renovated Marrakech two nights ago, Turns out it is still open, which is a relief. But I am a little worried. The old owner Abdul was nowhere to be found, and it looks pretty swanky now with low Moroccan couches everywhere and tent-like partitions. Haven't looked at the menu yet, but here's betting the massive $10 couscous is now double the price. Has anyone been yet?

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: aj_toronto

                                          Went today. You are spot on about the price doubling. All the main courses are $20. So here's how it went...

                                          The place was empty on arrival. We removed our shoes as it was snowing outside and that seemed to go down well with the the guy who met us. Maybe an owner.

                                          The starters ranged from $6 to $12. I cannot comment on them as we did not have them. We were invited to sit where we wish, so we sat by the window on the bench seats / couches watching the snow blow down the Danforth. We were brought some cookies, much like you are served cookies in an Italian wedding prior to a blow out meal. Makes no sense to us, but we nibbled on a couple. Some were date mixtures in pastry, others more like Middle Eastern phylo minced nut and honey cookies.

                                          We were then served mint tea with sugar. My partner didn't want it as it had sugar so the guy graciously made another pot.

                                          The menu is very small. For the main course you have either couscous or tajine. We ordered the chicken couscous and lamb tajine. There are 4 couscous choices:- veg; lamb, chicken and memory failure. The three tajine options of chicken lamb and beef had four options, dried prunes, onions and raisins and two more memory failures. The chicken couscous was excellent. Couscous was fluffy and covered a jointed half chicken. The chicken was tender and moist. It took 25 minutes to arrive which is in line with it being freshly cooked.

                                          The lamb tajine (with potato, preserved lemon and olives) was also very tasty. The lamb was a big lump (not a shank, but some knuckle type bit) that was falling apart. It must have been prepared well in advance. and then steamed. Next time I will not get the potato option as it is too much food for the two of us.

                                          My only complaint was that the food was served on cold dishes. The tajine plate and anthill cover were also cold although the food wasn't - on arrival. This is because the food had not been cooked in the serving dish. It was an authentic half-glazed earthenware tajine that would not be considered safe for cooking. (ie wouldn't meet NSF standards). I wished they could at least have warmed the dish.

                                          The meal came with a piece of bread the size of child's head - we managed a quarter of it. They also served a quartet of pickles ... carrots, peppers, a veg/tomato puree and chopped tomatoes and onions.

                                          The bill came to $40. The price must have included taxes although it did not say that on the menu. The lady of the establishment who I think was also the cook came out to see us, all smiles. All-in-all a very enjoyable lunch time. And one I would revisit.

                                          The music that played in the background was reminiscent of a cat being slowly strangled, but it was evocative of the North Africa. I liked the strange arrangement of low tables and couches, with fabrics draped across the walls. Sort of like a harem from a 1930's movie, but without any silk and bikini-clad ladies. I would definitely return with a bunch of my rather eclectic friends.

                                          There is no liquor license, but an application is under way. The owner (?) said he was happy to let us bring our own wine.

                                          If there is a bunch of eight of you or so going together there is a great table at the back surrounded by couches that will seat you all. And if you wish to sit on the floor then that's OK by him as well.

                                          I had the feeling this place was the Moroccan equivalent of "manga, manga" or the Northern British "relax and eat, you're at your auntie's".

                                          1. re: Paulustrious

                                            It's BYOB?? Really? If that's the case, we'll definitely go there for dinner! I'm confused though on how one can BYOB if the licence is pending? Don't you need a licence to allow for the BYOB? ( I also thought there was a religious restriction on alcohol at this place...)

                                            1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                              I shouldn't have repeated what was said to me. I didn't realise he may have been going out on a limb. There appears to be no religious restriction in their minds on alcohol; he said many places in Morocco serve alcohol. This article backs that up...


                                              If I could still edit my post I would remove that information. For the moment you should assume I misunderstood what was said.

                                              1. re: Paulustrious

                                                Understood! If anyone hears they have received a liquor licence, please post! I'd love to try it out.

                                        2. Marrakech Restaurant (Moroccan food) 1326 Danforth, Toronto

                                          I went there early this week, and even though they were closed they served a friend and I. The food was incredible!!! Everything was flavourful, genuine and had so much passion for cuisine put into each item we had! For appetizers, we had Dolma and various pickled veggies as well as an eggplant dip, and for the meal we had two kinds of cous cous as well as lamb tangine (slow cooked lamb with unique morrocan flavor and spices)... we also tried the sea food and chicken pastilla.

                                          The cookies were great too!

                                          All in all, a great experience, friendly owners and service... and of course, the famous delicious morrocan green-mint tea :) you have to try to this place... Don't let the outside fool you!

                                          13 Replies
                                          1. re: GanGan

                                            Hi GanGan,

                                            what other places do you like on Danforth Ave besides this one? How does it compare with other Moroccan restaurants in the area?

                                            1. re: foodyDudey

                                              Just for the record, Morocco has a wine industry, some pretty decent reds and roses, and many of the better restaurants in scenic locations serve wine and beer.

                                              1. re: jmk60

                                                HOT POT - last time I walked by there, there were installing restaurant equipment up front. It looked like they were aiming for an open grill concept. Anybody know more?

                                                1. re: jmk60

                                                  They've been constructing things for a while now, like 3-4 weeks? I'm looking forward to the end result.

                                                  1. re: Pincus

                                                    any updates? I just got around to posting my Walima pictures and I was reminded as to how disappointed I was and I want to head to Marrakech in the near future.

                                                    Walima Cafe
                                                    1450 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J, CA

                                                    1. re: ekim256

                                                      No. I wlll head out next week and report back.

                                                        1. re: Pincus

                                                          it's been a long time...but any reports Pincus? :3

                                                          1. re: ekim256

                                                            I'm not even sure they're still around! I'll go look tonight.

                                                            1. re: ekim256

                                                              Ok, 1326 isn't the correct address, because what is at 1326 has been there a long time. 1328 is the correct one, and it is no longer Marrakech by name. But it is a Moroccan restaurant. I haven't ventured in, and am not likely to for the next couple of weeks (time constraints).

                                                                1. re: ekim256

                                                                  Has anyone been recently? What is the new name of the restaurant in this place, is it still Moroccan?

                                                                  1. re: FrenchSoda

                                                                    Same question as FrenchSoda here!

                                                                    Haven't been back to the restaurant since it was Marrakech which was absolutely awesome -- the food, the kind server/chef and even the modest room. And then the (too low) prices... Based on those experiences and all the primarily derisive opinions on Sultan's Tent there was nowhere else I was interested in going for Moroccan. And then it closed...

                                                                    Sultan's Tent
                                                                    49 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E1B3, CA