Morocco. The name evokes myriad images some might see a grainy black-and-white Humphrey Bogart lighting a cigarette with a sneer in Casablanca. Others will envision the Blue Gate of Fez,gleaming in the baking sun. We imagine the tagine,the Berber tribes celebrated culinary export,referring to both,a rich meat,fish or vegetable stew,as well as the clay pot it is cooked in. The dish is finding favour with the Capitals culinarians who,like the Assyrians,are coming down like wolves on the fold (Moroccan food is dominated by lamb).
While Moroccan food has lurked on the edges of Mediterranean restaurant menus for several years (notably the Olive restaurants and The Med at the Radisson,Mahipalpur,which sadly shut its doors in 2012),the past few months have seen it move to the centrestage. The boost can be attributed to the opening of Moroccan specialty restaurants such as Zerzura at the Qutab Hotel in January,a month after the Double Tree by Hilton in Gurgaon unveiled Casablanca. Shalom,Delhis first Morocco-inspired lounge,has renamed itself S-Bar but its Moroccan characters remains constant,dominating the menu and décor.
Sandeep Panwar,executive chef at the Metropolitan Hotel in Connaught Place,who has worked with middle-eastern food during his stint at Dubais Burj al Arab hotel,feels that Moroccan is a palate pleaser with Indians as it is spicier than other middle-eastern cuisines. Moroccan and Indian dishes have many common spices such as cumin and cardamom. We have quite a few Moroccan dishes on our buffet spreads and they are hot sellers, he says.
The city hasnt warmed up only to Moroccan restaurants but also to Moroccan flavours in party and catering menus. Caterers say that tagines,roasts,cous cous and spicy Moroccon rice dishes share space with Indian festive staples such as the biryani and kebab. Moroccan food,like Indian cuisine,stresses on kebabs,but also has its own distinct character such as Zattar,a spice mix similar to the garam masala, says Lucy Holliday,who heads Damsons Pop Up Restaurants,a niche catering and supper club company. Damsons has catered to Moroccan-themed supper club events and private parties. We create a lot of mezze platters,kebabs and tagines. It appeals to the modern mindset because theres less oil and one spends less time in the kitchen, she says.
Mousim Sidana,chef-owner of The Supper Club,another exclusive catering service,agrees. We have tried out Moroccan dishes like char-grilled peaches with mascarpone,honey and pine nuts that have received a positive response from clients, says Sidana.
Chefs and foodies are upbeat about the future of Moroccon cuisine. Unlike French and Spanish cuisines,which trended in the last few years,Morocco is set to have a longer run on eating-out menus. As Bogart would have said,Heres looking at you kid.
Located in the Qutub Hotel at Katwaria Sarai,Zerzuras decor has a Moroccan palace-cum-Delhi nightclub feel. Apart from an extensive Moroccan menu,the restaurant also boasts a cocktail menu comprising thirst quenchers such as Aini,a date-infused spiced Captain Morgan rum with cointreau and Jaffa oranges,served on the rocks with date juice
Lamb cutlet,harissa and fennel tagine: A tender lamb cutlet with a thick gravy resting on a bed of buttered cous cous
Potatoes,chorizo and dates: Chorizo and potato chunks sauteed with dates
Meal for two: Rs 2,500
Its earlier avatar,Shalom,was a popular Delhi lounge with a laidback Moroccan ambience,low seating and tasseled booths. In its new avatar,the lounge retains the exotic Moroccan experience in a glitizier format
MALSOUKA: Freshly baked Saffron flavoured Chicken with Ricotta Cheese stuffed in Filo pastry. Served with pickled Lemon Butter sauce
DAJAJE BELIMOUNE: Saffron flavoured Chicken tagine cooked in an Orange sauce
Meal for two: Rs 1,500
The Moroccan specialty restaurant at Double Tree by Hilton serves up authentic Moroccan food in swish surroundings
CHELO KEBAB: Char-grilled Mince Lamb kebab,marinated in Sumac and Saffron. Served in fresh pita with spicy tomato dip
Meal for two: Rs 3,500