Friday, September 02, 2005

restaurant review


The decor looks good. There are big tables with comfortable benches or tiny little tables with cushions where you can lounge. That's one of my favorite things about Marrakech (which is superior to this place in most ways so if you want Moroccan food and haven't been there, go there first), the way you can recline while eating. The Moroccans got it right with that. It's dim inside, maybe a bit too dim because I was having trouble seeing my food, but that's better than too bright. The music was too loud and was generic house type music for most of the time we were there.

I got really excited when I saw the menu because everything sounded great. It's a very small menu, and we ordered over half the items so I think we got a pretty good idea of the food. There seemed to be a little confusion over who our server was and the owner was definitely hovering and making his staff nervous. The place was not that crowded, definitely not as crowded as Tapa's right across the way, so maybe the business has been lackluster.

Little picky point-the dishes are hideous and cheap looking. The small, frosted glass, triangular plates looked more like ashtrays. No one likes to eat out of an ashtray with the possible exception of small babies who don't know any better. Stupid babies.

Three of us got wine. They carry a selection of Moroccan, Lebanese, and Armenian wines. We tried to order the Armenian pomegranate wine (Grace warned "it's like the pomegranate mead from the wedding"-which I liked so fine by me) but they were out, so I got a Moroccan red, and Grace got a Moroccan rose. Both our wines were watery and not that tasty. I forgot to ask Anna about hers. I'm all for offering exotic wines, but if they're from a region of the world that's not known for their fine wines you had better take care to pick some good ones!

First out was the stuffed dates. The were stuffed with chorizo and (I think) Teleme cheese and deep fried. Combining all these things will of course lead to something delicious. However, not to brag, if you've had my bacon wrapped dates they are better than this. Just to give you something to judge it by. We got a platter of hummus, baba ganoush, and labneh. I know what good labneh should taste like because I always get it from Maalouf's and this was not good labneh. It was so lemony that it tasted like something you would mop your floor with. The hummus was also some of the worst I've had at a restaurant. It was dry and pasty and tasted exactly like every time I've ever tried to make hummus from cans of garbanzos. The baba ganoush was OK. We also got skewers with merguez. This is a lamb sausage. I recently got this at Aioli and it was fucking great, with the only problem being that they give you like three bites for seven bucks. For 9 or so, this portion was much more generous, they gave us four sizable skewers, but the merguez tasted like hamburger. Also, they stuck a pepper on there that looked like a bell pepper but was insanely hot. I like hot stuff but I felt like I had been tricked. We got fatoosh, which is a salad, and was pretty tasty, but they put a big dollop of the lemon cleanser on top which overwhelmed all the flavors. We also got an eggplant salad, which was passable. Man, this isn't sounding favorable. All in all, because of the company it was still a pleasant dinner and nothing was bad, it just wasn't delicious. Everyone liked the dates best. I also want to try the kefta, but after the mediocre merguez, I don't know if they can handle their lamb. The one really delicious item was the Berber coffee that D.P. ended the meal with. It was thick, strong and flavorful without being bitter, and had a tiny hint of nutmeg or perhaps some other, more exotic spice. I pronounced it to be "like licking a Berber" and everyone laughed.

Oh shit, I forgot the thing we got that was called Chi Chi something, that was cheese and quince paste in pastry. The server lit it on fire in a fearful way that did not inspire confidence. Then he put it out with a squeeze of-guess what?-lemon. It was a hot ball of melted cheese with barely any discernible quince flavor. Anna had to tell me what a quince was, and I was excited to try it, but there seemed to be just a little sweet/sour aftertaste once the oily cheese slid down your throat. This is a weird dish, and it quickly congealed and became inedible.

After lingering over our meal, we were chatting, but then the belly dancer came in. I don't like belly dancing. It makes me uncomfortable, especially when there is pressure to tip or, even worse, when they call for audience participation. She was one of the latter type, and we fled to converse out in the roar of J street and watched some poor guy get his head wrapped in her scarf while he awkwardly tried to mimic her moves.

Overall: not terrible, Marrakech is better, but I'll probably give it one more chance. But check out the coffee and it's cool it's open until really late.


Beth said...

That pisses me off, because Habanero was my favorite restaurant in town, and if it had to be replaced it should have been replaced with something good. But at least now I feel better about my irrational boycott (since it is presumably not Kasbah's fault that Habanero went away).

Anonymous said...

I swear Habanero suffered from it's proximity to Tapas since Tapas is so hoppin' all the time & just looks more fun. Because I loved Habanero too but for some reason it always seemed underrated or unappreciated or something.


Anonymous said...

I need a report on the mint tea. Did anyone have mint tea? Was it made from fresh mint? Was it bright green? Was it full of sugar? Did they pour it from up high? I dream of Morrocan mint tea but have never found it anywhere as delicious as, well, Morroco.

Anonymous said...

i tried the pomegrante wine which was ok,
the service was the WORST and I was not a fan of all the hookah chods around us blowing hot ash everywhere.
i wouldn't go back.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the time my ex and me would go to this Morrocan restaurant in D.C. I kept having a Larry David Moment everytime the belly dancer came around to the table. I mean, you're not supposed to tip, because that would be tacky, but it SEEMS like the kind of situation in which you really would tip someone. And you're supposed to pay attention while they're dancing, but for the whole damn time? That's kind of lot of time to watch. Should you suspend all conversation at the table? Or just for a little bit? But then, resuming chit-chat seems sort of rude, along th' lines of "okay, you should go dance somnewhere else now." Which is, of course, what's on everyone's mind, since you're there to eat, not to feel kind of creepy (especially if you're male, with your gurlfriend, while some 20-year-old gyrates her hips at your eye level).
It was VEXING, I tells ya.
And yet, because of the strongness of the tea, the greatness of the lamb and the sweetness of the date appetizers, we kept going back and back.

Anonymous said...

The merguez tasted like hamburger!?! That's lame. I recently bought the merguez they sell at Whole Foods - excellent! They were hot (like men in short running shorts!), but not too hot (like the photos I took of Jay Howell and Mark for that article in SNR which they refused to use).

Does anyone know if they still have belly dancing at Marrekech? The last time I went, the dancer was gorgeous but very agressive and wouldn't take no for an answer from my poor friend. She made him put a sword in his mouth and dance with her.... it was a scene. But, the "parchment chicken" and mint tea there are really, really good.