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Moroccan Hospitality for the vernal equinox

g
gourmaniac Mar 26, 2012 07:27 AM

I ordered a Moroccan feast for 4 and let the lovely ladies of Rabat put together their magic as a tasting menu. We started with their excellent harira soup and house made bread, which I ate too much of. Individual small chicken b'stilla followed and this was a hit. The chicken was a little different this time with large morsels of white meat chicken but the wonderful spicing redolent with saffron and cinnamon and the shattering crispness of the phyllo were great (as always). The b'stilla was served with a side dish of two rounds of salad: beets and red pepper. By this time, we were full, but on came a couscous with vegetables and lamb and a separate dish of lamb tagine with artichokes. Both were very good but most of us took home leftovers from these course. The vegetables were perfect with just the right give. Lamb (shoulder?) could have been braised longer and the the couscous could have been fluffier but I quibble. A platter of house made Moroccan cookies and mint tea concluded this fine celebration of Spring's hope. Should you order a similar meal, the cost is an amazing $15.00 per head (not including tea and dessert). We volunteered more due a complication that was our fault. I'm thinking that this place runs on a shoestring and the meal was cheap at twice the price. This is such a Chowhound hidden gem. The earnestness and hospitality of our hostesses was excellent relish for this fine repast.

  1. Chris VR Mar 26, 2012 07:34 AM

    Thanks for the info! Prices there are so odd. The first time I went there with husband and daughter, and the second time with husband and other couple our bills seemed very reasonable. When I went another time with a group of women and asked them to just bring an assortment of food, I recall thinking the bill was higher than I'd expected.... it was definitely moe than $15/head! But it was during Ramadan, so maybe that had something to do with it? Anyway, I do need to get back there!

    1. t
      treb Mar 26, 2012 09:56 AM

      Been many times, always great food, never can figure out their pricing but, it doesn't matter a buck or two, who cares when you get fablous and generous home cooked dishes.

      1. w
        whops Mar 26, 2012 01:05 PM

        Sheer goodness on earth. Rejoice, ye who have teeth, tastebuds and time. Don't forget to ask for the graif, a rich bread of many layers.

        1 Reply
        1. re: whops
          g
          gourmaniac Mar 26, 2012 01:44 PM

          I had the graif with Moroccan honey last time I was there as a comp :-)

        2. Luther Mar 26, 2012 02:22 PM

          Most overrated CH spot 2011-12?

          5 Replies
          1. re: Luther
            t
            treb Mar 26, 2012 04:46 PM

            can you elaborate a bit?

            1. re: treb
              Luther Mar 26, 2012 07:11 PM

              I found the service more "awkward" or "sadly incapable" than warm and friendly. They had a kid who didn't understand the menu (which is weird, since there's only like 7 things on there) taking orders, passing them to the chef lady, who then had to come back and go over the whole thing again with us. Lamb and chicken were both fairly dry/tough. One plate of couscous was sopping drippy. the other closer to normal, but neither were properly steamed. The liquid itself in the couscous was bright yellow and strongly MSG-y, and I'd bet money it was mainly flavored with instant chicken powder. I found the bread (which has drawn a lot of compliments on this board) to be dry, cold and fairly unpleasant. The Moroccan tea didn't have nearly enough tea or mint in it. The hummus (comp) didn't have a good tahine flavor. "Shawarma" was food service gyro meat in a food service pita. Fries were room temperature.

              Overall it was a pretty big pile of food for the money but I didn't particularly enjoy the flavors or the atmosphere (wobbly sticky table). I'd return if it were down the block from my house but I'm really confused why it's perpetually touted as this amazing destination place.

              1. re: Luther
                g
                gourmaniac Mar 27, 2012 08:57 AM

                Quote "dry, cold and fairly unpleasant." Hmmmm, what an apt choice of words.

                I would agree that couscous is not a strong point in that I've had much better in Moroccan or Algerian places in Paris. The yellow is from saffron that i could taste in the couscous and the b'stilla. We found the tea to be perfect if allowed to steep sufficiently. I think their tagine are excellent and b'stilla knocks it out of the park based on two visits. I wouldn't think to order the schwarma or fries as I guess these are lunch items that keep this mom and sis place in business during the week.

                We differ on what we value in restaurants, which is a strength of this site. I prize value and getting things that I cannot easily prepare. I'm a decent home cook so yet another new American bistro with short rib ravioli with chevre does not impress me as I can make such things for half the cost and usually better. When I find an honest and kind ethnic restaurant preparing food that I cannot easily duplicate and that can be had for small money, I revel in such a place and applaud their efforts. I tend to cut such places some slack on kid waiters who don't know the menu because I once played that part. I even tip more generously for warm, friendly "sadly incapable" service.

                1. re: gourmaniac
                  d
                  drbangha Mar 27, 2012 09:32 AM

                  very well said.....

                  1. re: gourmaniac
                    Luther Mar 27, 2012 01:55 PM

                    Differing tastes in service aside, I'm not sure what about the couscous or roasted chicken or lamb makes it different from something I'd whip up at home without much thought or time invested. I can see the b'stilla being something that requires a lot more labor. The couscous certainly *should* be something that requires a lot more labor than I'd be willing to put in on the average weekday evening, but again, they didn't carefully steam it, they seemed to have just boiled it in some 1-dimensional overly salty/MSG stock.

                    As for the fries, about half the menu items come with "fries or couscous." Fries are delicious, and great with roasted and stewed meats, so why shouldn't I expect them to be a decent choice? Or was this the equivalent of ordering pork fried rice with my cha siu fan?

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