A tasty trip to Marrakesh

The Gossiping Gourmet

July 07, 2010|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Couscous is served at Marrakesh Moroccan Cuisine.
Couscous is served at Marrakesh Moroccan Cuisine. (KENT TREPTOW, HB…)

While we're always on the lookout for the hot new thing, we love to rediscover an oldie but goodie. We were a bit worried about revisiting Marrakesh in Costa Mesa since neither of us had been there for at least 12 years. We're happy to report that our fears were unfounded.

Stepping off busy Newport Boulevard into this dark, casbah-like atmosphere, we were immediately put in the mood for a unique dining experience. The large space is broken up into smaller dining areas with tent-like draperies, each with low brocade-upholstered banquettes lined with pillows. Inlaid wood tables, lantern-like fixtures, Moroccan artifacts and candlelight help set the mood.

The menu features seven pre-set dinners including one vegetarian, but an a la carte menu will be provided on request. Each set dinner includes: soup, a quartet of salads, bread, bastilla, one or two entrées, baklava and mint tea. We opted to order a la carte.


The meal begins with a hand-washing ritual. A large metalware bowl is set on the table and you are instructed to place your hands above it. The server pours warm rosewater from a large goose-necked pitcher over your hands and then presents you with a towel for drying. Another towel serves as a very large napkin because, traditionally, Moroccan food is eaten with the hands. (Utensils are available for the timid.)

The soup is lentil vegetable purée with chickpeas, served in a bowl with handles so you can drink it. The tasty soup is delicate but richly flavored. Fresh lemon wedges are provided and they do add a nice perk.

The next course is a small platter of four different salads, and each was very good. They are meant to be scooped up with anise-flavored bread. Eggplant and tomato purée is seasoned with cumin, garlic, lemon and cilantro, all in perfect balance. The cooked carrot salad was slightly sweet and freshened with lemon. There was potato salad in light vinaigrette and a cooling, crunchy cucumber salad. We opted for forks here rather than bread or this course would have turned into our whole meal.

Bastilla is everyone's favorite Moroccan dish: filo dough wrapped around a filling of ground almonds, a thickened egg sauce and bits of chicken. The pie is dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar. The Marrakesh version is sweeter than most and is more like an almond-filled pastry than a chicken pie. The chicken was hard to find, although the pie was crispy and appetizing.

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