Moroccan homegrown

Updated: 2008-01-02 10:58

Marrakech opened on Fuxing Xi Lu over a year ago. It quickly became a favorite of ours. We loved their lunch specials, sitting in the backyard white tents, enjoying the mint tea (30rmb), fresh Moroccan breads, couscous and tagines. Unfortunately, a few months after opening, the kitchen started to slip, the portions got smaller and service was scattered. We stopped going.

Then, last month we noticed a lot of construction activity going on in the building.

Curious to see what was new, we returned this week to find they've expanded the restaurant to include a backyard balcony, a live music room, and the Spice Lounge.

We sampled a lot on the menu, and while we found the portions agreeable again, the food was hit-and-miss. Generally, the flavors just aren't as rich and complex as we've experienced at Moroccan eateries around the world. Still, we really enjoyed the chicken tagine (78rmb), moist and savory with tart green olives (and aided by a hearty scoop of harissa chili paste). The vegetable couscous (58rmb) was a good compliment to the BBQ lamb skewers (68rmb). The harissa soup (35rmb) makes a fine, smokey-spicy starter. And the fresh-baked bread, which comes complimentary with every meal, was still as excellent as we remember it.

The deep-fried appetizers weren't as good, lacking flavor. The maakhoda (45rmb), filled with mashed potatoes, eggs and parsley, were bland until generous sprinkles of cumin, pepper and salt. The briouates (45rmb) filled with chicken, vermicelli, olives and peanuts, were more interesting. Also, on the night we visited, none of the desserts on the menu were available. We left wanting couscous with spiced raisins and powdered sugar, a standard on many Moroccan menus.

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