Dangerous Compassions

the Moroccan dinner

It was Friday night. Erik picked me up from work, and I was longing for something Middle Eastern. We thought Moroccan was close enough.

We felt we were entering another world. The lights were dim, and other-cultural music was playing. The tables were all coffee table height. The waiter was in an elaborate cultural costume. We sat at the couch-like seat. The walls are covered in carpets of ornate design. We were exhausted from a long week of sleep-deprivation and the strain of work.

We had a hard time ordering–they’re not big on vegetarian items. We ordered some prawns and gave in and ordered some chicken for entre number two.

First we ate some lentil-tomato soup. It was salty and good, though I was concerned there might have been some lamb broth in there….

The waiter came with a pitcher of water to pour over our hands, small white towels for napkins, and a shiny basin to catch the water in as we washed. It was a nice little ritual.

Then was salad. He brought a big basket of bread and said we should take two pieces. The spicy eggplant salad was the best. The green beans were also good. The potato salad was herby and interesting. Everything seemed to have vinegar. Even the carrots were nice, and I don’t usually like carrots cooked. And something like a very chunky fresh salsa only with cucumbers in addition. We really liked the salad. I would have enjoyed a meal consisting entirely of the salad in larger portions. The bread was fresh, heavy, and tasty.

Then was the showy star of the evening, the pastilla. The waiter explained how the moors brought this dish back to Morocco and how it was originally made with pigeons. Now it’s chicken, eggs, peanuts, and almonds in a shell of filo dough with powdered sugar and cinnamon on top. “It’s very hot, temperature hot,” he warned us. “So don’t burn your fingers.” We had no silverware.

To say it was rich and delicious would be an understatement. I had never had such a combination of sweet with savory. I felt blessed and honored to eat this unusual food. Yet I don’t like to eat chicken.

Then was the main course. The chicken’s sauce was something special: honey, raisins, onions, nutmeg, something else? He said the onions had been boiled for five hours. The raisins seemed disintegrated, which is how I like my raisins, if at all. The chicken itself was unremarkable–not overdone really, but not melt-in-your-mouth either.

The prawns were in a strong, dark, garlicky, heavenly sauce that reminded me a little of Indian food…. The music reminded me of Indian music too. The prawns were intact, and the waiter brought a bowl for their shells.

The couscous was nice, very neutral-tasting. The veggies on top were unremarkable except for some very good squash that might have been pumpkin. The couscous had spoons stuck in it, and it was nice to have spoons. We ate it with the sauce from the meat dishes.

Then they came to wash our hands again, but this time, they also sprinkled them with rose water. A different waiter with less English came for this ritual, and it was confusing at first. He served us the dessert course, which was tiny (almost humorously tiny) pieces of baklawa and a sweet, spicy, awesome minty tea spiked with rosewater–just delicious, just perfect.

Our check was not hinted at. The guy seemed to act as if we had moved in. “Belly dancer will be here in five minutes,” he told us. We stayed for a little of the dancing. The music was changed to something much louder and more vigorous. She danced very well, and flirted a little with a man at another table. I have mixed feelings about belly dancing in restaurants because I take everything so seriously and because of how it verges on sex work yet does not quite qualify, do you think? Very sexual but light-hearted. I will write about this other times and other places.

The meal was six courses, expensive, but well worth it. This would be a great place to take friends who are visiting as it’s wonderful to just sit somewhere for hours and be presented with rich food and rich experience. Stimulating and relaxing at the same time. Marrakesh on Fulton.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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