We had been intrigued with this tiny Moroccan restaurant ever since it opened around two months ago.
We finally dropped in last evening and I must enthusiastically report that it was outstanding. Better than the Moroccan food we had in Morocco and more like what I envisioned a homecooked Moroccan meal to be. The owner smiled when I told him that and said that was his exact intentions when opening this place. This is very different than the ornate several-course-Moroccan-banquet-belly dancing type places. It is a tiny cafe with an open kitchen and about 4-5 tables inside (and two outside if you wish to view the tenderloin action.) Taped Moroccan/arabic music plays in the backround. You order at the counter and food is brought out to you although since we were the only customers at that time he insisted on traditional table service for us.
What we ate:
Harira soup- a thick lentil/tomato soup. Piping hot, homey, spiced well and complex enough to make it difficult to pinpoint all of the spices- tumeric and ginger?
We couldn't decide which salad to try and the owner graciously offered to make us a sampler plate with small portions of three. It included an
eggplant salad, bell pepper and tomato salad and a tomato,onion and cilantro salad. The eggplant salad was outstanding and still warm- the others were fine but suffered from pink flavorless tomatoes (at this time of year!) $3.75
Chicken Bastilla- a baked fillo-like dough, about 8" circumference stuffed with chicken, eggs, almond and topped with the usual cinnamon and sugar criss-cross pattern. This too was outstanding. It arrived hot and crispy. The dough was very thin and delicate. The dough was not housemade but per the owner the best you can get of the premade.$5.50
We split the special tagine of the day which was lamb stewed with prunes and topped with toasted almonds. The stew was homely in appearance and delicious- the lamb cubed and on the bone was tender and the flavor of the stew was complex and aromatic. The almonds provide a perfect taste and texture contrast. The stew was perfect with the Moroccan bread. $7.99
This feast, along with two calistogas and hot mint tea set us back $19 total. The soup and tea were comped. We took home half of the bastilla
I am eager to go back. There are a lot of dishes to try including Dajaj Mqall- chicken with olives and preserved lemon, Tajine Bakkri- beef with artichoke hearts,peas and preserved lemon and Lamb and a vegeterian cous cous. The also have grilled sandwiches such as Merghez and kufta kabab (ground beef mixed with spices.) The entrees are $6-8 and the sandwiches are $4.50-$6.00 and include fries and a tomato salad.
There are a few vegetarian items such as a vegetarian bastilla, a spicy potato eggplant and shermoula sandwich and vegetable cous-cous with turnips, carrots, squash, zucchini and tomatoes
The owner is a gracious man who was pleased and probably a bit bemused with our enthusiasm. I told him how happy I was NOT to have to contend with a belly dancer in the middle of dinner. He reminded me that belly dancing is not part of the Moroccan tradition being more Egyptian and anyway, he said with a chuckle, it wouldn't look good with his Halal signs in the window.
The place is right down the street from ACT and Geary street theaters and could be a fun pre-play restaurant although our dinner was quite leisurely and I have no idea how they would do with a time deadline. I think fine as we witnessed others coming in after us, ordering one dish and being served right away. They just knew that we were not in any hurry..
552 Jones street (near Geary)