I have been hearing about the Marrakesh for a number of years, but I had never had the pleasure of experiencing this for myself. Until tonight. Jeff took me out for my birthday dinner, and surprised me by treating me to traditional Moroccan food. It was very good, and five hours later I'm still full.
The interior of the restaurant looks like the interior of a lavish pavilion; richly coloured drapes adorned doorways and arches, deep couches ran along the external walls with low, ornate tables surrounded by plush stools. After we were seated we were given menus and very large towels in place of napkins. Once we had ordered our meal, the server brought a very ornate silver basin and kettle, and washed our hands in warm, rose-scented water. Utensils were available upon request, but we chose to eat with our hands instead.
The first course was a lentil soup and a salad; the salad also had a layer of lentil sauce, somewhat spicy, layered over torn lettuce, white onions, sesame seeds, and a very light dressing. Squares of bread were served, which were best enjoyed after being soaked in the soup.
The second course was a delicious appetizer called B'stellela Royale, which was a mixture of unseasoned chicken and celery, cooked until very soft and baked inside a flaky pastry crust and topped with powdered sugar and a dusting of cinnamon. It doesn't sound appetizing at all, but it was an amazing mix of textures and tastes.
I chose beef and vegetable brochette for my entree. I couldn't identify all the spices used but it was an earthy, spicy mixture; my meal came with a tremendous serving of rice and vegetables. Jeff had cous-cous with vegetables and lamb; the lamb was placed in the centre of the plate with the cous-cous and vegetables piled on top of it, so that the cous-cous absorbed the flavour of the lamb; it was very moist and the lamb was exceptionally well-prepared.
After we finished our entrees, our hands were again washed in rose water, then our server generously splashed our hands with more rose-water and an orange blossom oil which we rubbed in vigorously; it left our hands very soft. The mess of dropped crumbs, evidence of our having eaten with our hands, was wiped away so that we could enjoy dessert feeling clean and refreshed.
Dessert was a mint tea and a very dense, almond-flavoured pastry.
The entire evening was exciting and fun; the food was among the best I have ever eaten and the service and atmosphere were both very welcoming and inviting. It was a terrific way to celebrate my thirtieth year of life.