WORLD ON A PLATE — When you walk up to the giant Moroccan door, a sign reads “Please knock. It is a tradition.” From that moment forward, you step out of time and step into an exquisite world filled with Moroccan culture. The windows are draped in thick fabric to keep out the sounds and sights of a busy Georgia Avenue, Aziz Yatochane, one of the owners, informed us. “We want to offer customers Morocco without the ticket,” he explained as I looked around, wide-eyed at the low cushioned seats, octagonal tables, and numerous musical instruments and pictures adorning the walls.
As we sat down, we were approached with water and a beautiful bowl for us to wash our hands. This step is very important considering the next six out of seven courses will be served without utensils, in traditional Morocco style.
We covered our laps with the towels provided and listened as the salad course one was described. It arrived family style (as did all the courses) and was served with bread. You use the bread to pick up the “salad,” which is an eggplant puree, a cucumber and tomato salad, and steamed carrots. These are all served separately on the plate. I loved all three. I have never had eggplant prepared that way before and it was delicious, especially with the bread. And my cucumber and tomato salads never turn out the way this one did!
Second course was a traditional bastilla — a phyllo dough pastry stuffed with chicken and almonds and then covered in cinnamon and sugar. I know what you’re thinking, savory mixed with sweet? Really? But this just so happens to be my favorite course! The cinnamon and sugar brought out a different flavor in the shredded chicken and the pastry was very light and delicate. The almonds were a nice touch. I loved it.
Third course leads to your first decision: marinated chicken with lemon and olives or spicy chicken? We chose spicy and, a few minutes later, were presented with four pieces of chicken so tender that they literally fell off the bones. The whole group agreed that the chicken was absolutely fabulous, full of flavor but not too spicy, especially for someone like me who can’t handle the heat. (FYI: this was the messiest dish so far, but if you’ve ever eaten a chicken wing, it shouldn’t be an issue.)
Next course, next decision: Lamb with onions, raisins and almonds, or spicy lamb. Because we just had the spicy chicken, we chose the lamb with onions, raisins and almonds and again, a great choice. One of the group had not enjoyed lamb before and was a bit tentative but she tried it and was pleasantly surprised. The raisins produced an unusual pairing; again adding a sweetness that I’m not used to, but it was a great combination.
As we waited for our next course, I looked around at the other diners: a family with small children who were laying back and relaxing in a nook in the corner, and a couple to the side of us who seemed like they had dined here before. Because you get swept away with the ambiance, I really had forgotten all about other people or the outside world. Who would have thought we were in Silver Spring, let alone on busy Georgia Avenue? The luxury of the restaurant truly brings the experience to the next level.
The fifth course came out and the group was getting full. However, we were surprised to see the next dish accompanied with spoons. For a minute, we had all forgotten what it was like to eat with utensils. Spoons were necessary for this course as we were served couscous topped with vegetables and chick peas. We had asked earlier for the hot sauce that came with the spicy chicken to be served with our couscous and it was a nice complement but wasn’t necessary. The couscous was just as yummy on its own.
That was it. Two hours and five courses down, we didn’t know if we could make it any farther. Yet, out came a basket of apples and bananas for dessert and two of us couldn’t say no so we enjoyed one of each. We laid back, completely satisfied and comfortable on our low couches, towels strewn aside, sipping on our water. Finally, the seventh and final course was hot mint tea, which they poured in an entertaining fashion, served with honeyed baklava – what a treat! It was the perfect way to end our seven-course meal.
All in all, Marrakesh was a tasty, pleasant experience. I can see how this place would be fun for groups and special occasions – as long as you don’t mind getting your hands sticky! The owners pull out all the stops to ensure customers are treated to a traditional Moroccan experience, and Marrakesh definitely does not disappoint.
Marrakesh Silver Spring
8301 Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910
• Open daily 6 pm-11 pm.
• $29 for adults.
• Reservations recommended.
• Vegetarian options available.
• Belly dancing: Fridays & Saturdays