February 2, 2011
Dining on Moroccan food is no everyday event. Simply put, it is a feast for the senses: the mingling of sweet and savory flavors, the beat of the music, the aroma of exotic spices, and of course the shimmy of belly dancers’ hips. It is not just a meal; it’s a transporting experience.
The moment you walk in the door you will feel as though you’re somewhere else. From the bright colors of the intricate wall tapestries to the welcoming round cushions, everything hints at a foreign, faraway place.
If you are stopping in for dinner later in the week or on a weekend, belly dancers will also add to the ambiance and perform throughout your meal. I have been particularly impressed with the dancers at Marrakesh, who balance swords on their heads while doing seemingly impossible things with their mid-sections.
The rituals of Moroccan food culture are also weaved into your dining experience. Since Moroccans usually eat with their hands, using bread as a utensil, when your server first greets you, you’ll get warm water poured over your hands or a piping hot towelette to wash up with and prepare yourself for the meal. After dessert, your server will also offer you rose water to clean your hands with, which provides a perfume to cover up the pungent smell of all those delicious foods mixed together. While utensils are provided for the actual eating, the ritual is maintained.
If you are unfamiliar with Moroccan food (as I was), I recommend just ordering the “feast” and asking your server to help you select your main course. If you are planning to have a drink with your meal, definitely order some Moroccan wine. The ones I have tried have been sweet reds with hints of raspberry and strawberry.
The feast is generally served in five courses beginning with a savory, harira soup with lentils and garbanzo beans in a tomato flavored broth. Next you’ll be served a trio of salads with bread, which is sort of like a hummus plate but without the hummus. At Kasbah this included an eggplant spread, a finely chopped carrot relish, and another spread I can’t quite describe.
The next course is a bit of an enigma to me. B’stilla is a filo dough concoction topped with cinnamon and powered sugar and filled with almonds and chicken. I generally don’t think mixing meat with sweets is a good idea, and it isn’t my favorite part of the meal, but somehow it still works, even for me. (Just be careful when you eat it because they serve it piping hot. I’ve burned the roof of my mouth on this before.)
For the main course I’ve tried a few different entrees. Mixing meat (usually chicken or lamb) with sweet ingredients like prunes, honey, and apricots is common. These dishes are very distinct and tasty, but my favorite meals have usually been of the savory lamb variety. Lahm M’hammer at Kasbah is simply the best.
It’s kind of weird to think that I was a vegetarian for 4 years and now lamb is my meat of choice. What can I say? I feel sort of horrible about eating a baby sheep, but it’s just so damn delicious. With Moroccan cuisine, it is even more succulent and tender. For both the chicken and lamb dishes, the meat literally falls off the bone.
For dessert, you are served sweet, mint tea and generally a Moroccan pastry. These are made with filo or regular dough. The one I had most recently was like baklava, but with peanuts instead of walnuts.
To experience the decadence of a Moroccan feast for yourself, check out one of these wonderful restaurants:
2334 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
1471 NW 85th Street
Seattle, WA 98117