708 Bloomfield Avenue
Montclair, NJ 07042-2203
Montclair’s booming restaurant scene has it’s fill of ethnic eateries. Mexican, got it. Cuban, got it. Sushi, it’s like little Tokyo out there on Bloomfield Ave. Conspicuously missing was a solid Moroccan restaurant so I was thoroughly excited when I saw the sign for Marrakech going up along the western slope of Bloomfield Ave. a few months ago.
While Lalazar and Addiwan Café make an honest attempt at middle eastern fare, serving Turkish and Lebanese food respectively, there really isn’t a place in town to get a decent Couscous fix. Well, at least we haven’t found it so C and I decided to try Marrakech post Thanksgiving. The results were mixed.
For starters the place is small and the décor is excellent. We felt a bit like we were in Casablanca (or at least a movie version of Casablanca) with the sconces throwing shadows and light across the tiny café. JerseyCool will even bestow this eatery as the early favorite for menu design of the year with it’s embossed, solid menu that feels substantial in the hand.
Now, where Marrakech started to slip was in table design. These tables are low and can be a bit uncomfortable if you’re here for awhile. Traditionally, middle eastern restaurants serve food to guests seated on the floor so it’s as if Marrakech decided to shoot for a middle point here and failed miserably. We really wish they would have had the balls to throw a bunch of cushions on the floor and had diners sit barefoot and cross-legged but there’s drawbacks to that approach as well.
Marrakech also stumbled a bit with our pet peeve, the dreaded bench table seating along the side. Yeah it gets more seats into the joint but it pretty much guarantees that at least once during your meal you’ll get a dose of either ass or crotch as someone squirts past.
Where Marrakech started to pick up its game is during the meal, which is most important. Both the scallop appetizer and the lentil salad were excellent. The scallops had a hint of salt which leads us to believe they were fresh. The lentils tasted more like a dip and worked well with the flatbread on the table. For dinner, C’s lamb Tagine was also very good, combined with prunes it was very flavorful. Unfortunately, the main star of the evening and what we came there for in the first place was a disappointment. There really is no other way to describe Marrakech’s lamb couscous as anything other than bland and for a Moroccan place it’s all about the couscous. The lamb under the couscous was OK but we really wish there was something more adventurous on top than carrots and squash.
We didn’t try dessert but the Moroccan tea was excellent and let’s give a little love to Marrakech for offering free tea if you download a coupon from its Web site. JerseyCool just loves it when restaurants get all jiggy with their Web sites.
Service was good though Marrakech suffers from slow check disease but I suppose it’s a place where people linger and we’re willing to toss that slip to growing pains. As for the couscous, it’s tough to get past that one but we’re willing to give these folks another go’round. As long time fans of Cassablanca in Jersey City, where couscous is state of mind, we’re rooting for Marrakesh to make a go of it over on Bloomfield Ave.
Read more about Marrakech at eGullet.