You know how you live somewhere for a long time and you mean to go some place? “One of these days, I’m going to get there,” you think. Well, for me, one of those places was the Marrakesh Moroccan restaurant on NW 21 in Portland. I’d say I’ve been meaning to get there for 20 years.
My niece who was visiting gave me the perfect excuse to finally check this restaurant out. It was particularly fitting since we’d watched the movie, Today’s Special, the night before. It’s about a young chef who has to take over his father’s Indian restaurant while he’s recovering from an illness. While Indian cuisine is not the same as Moroccan cuisine, my point really is that we were coming off that vibe and it was fun to step into Marrakesh, sit on the floor and eat with our hands like they were doing in the movie.
So, yes, you walk in and the rooms are heavily laden with tapestry from wall to floor, several low tables throughout surrounded by cushions and the ceilings are draped with billowy linens. It’s absolutely warm and inviting.
After adjusting ourselves on our respective round ottoman seats, our server came with large white towels and instructed us to place our hands over a metal pot he’d placed in the middle of the table.
He poured warm water on our hands and the fun began. We were served wonderful lentil soup followed by a refreshing salad that we scooped up with pieces of bread and B'stilla Royale for a shared appetizer. B'stilla Royale is a sweet and savory treat inside phyllo dough and is sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar before serving. Ours was vegetarian but it’s usually made with meat.
My niece had the Breka Vegetarian while my husband opted for the Apricot Chicken special and I had the Salmon baked in Sharmoula sauce. The idea is to share all the entrees but since Madi and I weren’t going to have any of Dan’s chicken we decided to just do separate dishes. Let me tell you, it was strange to eat salmon in a tomato sauce with my hands but it was a scumpdillyicious dish that I wish I was eating right now, frankly.
My husband actually requested a fork for his entrée which seemed to disappoint the waiter but when he excused himself to use the restroom, we had the waiter take it away. After our entrees, we thought we were finished but he brought out a light dessert and served us hot mint tea, filling each glass from about two feet above them. It was a fun presentation.
I’ve never been to Morocco so maybe some of the presentation at Marrakesh is touristy. What I do know is we had a terrific time, it’s a memory we all made together and the food was wonderful. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this restaurant 20 years ago but I’ve been cooking with a lot of cumin, paprika, ginger and cinnamon in particular in a lot of dishes the last few years. Could that mean that my timing for a Marrakesh visit was actually spot on?