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Argana review

yumyum | Apr 4, 2002 03:08 PM

... It was a cold and rainy night and we had a hankerin' for lamb so we checked out the new Moroccan restaurant in Inman Square (Cambridge) last night. Overall, it was a "B-" rated experience with some elements being outstanding, and some being quite dodgy...

We were greeted very warmly by the lovely staff (one of them the owner, formerly of Marrakech down the street) and ordered a drink at the bar. The restaurant itself is very attractive, warm, and tastefully decorated. Once we were seated, we asked the owner for advice on the menu. He had a hard time because "everything is good" but he steered us toward the Tagines and the Couscous.

Appetizer -- Lamb bourrhek -- filo pastry wrapped around ground lamb, with a lightly spiced stewed tomato sauce. Lovely looking, three little triangles, but drier than I expected and not worth ordering again.

Entrees --
Quail tagine -- quail is a tasty bird my friends and the tagine involves larger "isreali" style couscous, of which I am a fan. One caveat -- the quail is also a small bird, so don't expect to be filled up on this item. But in a brothy mix of roasted carrots, turnips and potatoes, I would order this one again.

Couscous Argana -- mixed skewers of chicken, lamb and sausage served over traditional couscous studded with veggies and served with a lemony drizzling sauce on the side. It was okay -- one diner thought the meat was more gristly than it should have been, but the sausage was delish and the lemony drizzle was a nice touch.

The best dish was the roasted lamb shanks - honey spiced long roasted lamb shanks with prunes and currants. I do not usually go in for the sweet meat dishes, but this was divine. Served with a side of chickpeas and couscous and a stand-out.

We ordered wine by the glass, a respectable Southeast Australian shiraz-cabernet for $6. But then, two disturbing things happened. We were asked if we wanted water, still or sparkling? We didn't realize that the charge for still would be $6, and all felt it should have been made clear it wasn't tap. Then our waiter also offered us the special oil "Argana oil" to go with our bread. He sweetly said "it's the name of the restaurant!" and of course we complied. It tasted like kerosene and cost $3 extra. What is UP with that? The tab ended up being $40 a head, and didn't include dessert. I thought it was steep for what we got, and didn't appreciate the "extras".

Overall impression -- Argana is fine, and I hope they make a go of it in this cursed restaurant spot, but with tricks like the above, I recommend you save a few bucks and go with the Helmand next time you want lamb.

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