One Saturday night not too long ago, I was in the mood for something new. I'd had my full of everyone's latest rendition of the overly breaded crab cake with a side of vegetables and salad and I was on the prowl for something I'd never tried before. So I picked up Washingtonian Cheap Eats and started flipping through the pages looking for some inspiration.
What's this Taste of Morroco in Silver Spring -- that's definitely new and I've never had Moroccan food before! Sounds like a good option.
From my numerous trips to Ray's the Classics around the corner from Taste of Morocco, I knew that the parking situation is pretty good on the weekends. There are plenty of lots in downtown Silver Spring and traffic on the weekend is never too bad in that area.
You'll forgive me if I don't go on and on about the decor at Taste of Morroco and how it makes me feel like I've been transported to another world, because I really couldn't give a crap, other than the fact that my son had a really good time bouncing on the cushions on the seat along the wall. Yeah, the decor is nice, but nice decor doesn't make up for bad food (I'm not saying that Taste of Morocco's food is bad, as you'll find out by reading the rest of this) no matter what continent you're "transported" to.
(Please forgive my sarcasm. As I write this, I'm cramped in coach economy on a plane on the way to Chicago and the person in front of me just put their seat all the way back forcing me to type on my computer like I'm a sardine.)
One thing I really appreciated at Taste of Morocco was how helpful the people are at the restaurant. I think they realize that most people dining there have never eaten Moroccan food before, so they spend a lot of time explaining what the different types of dishes are. One thing they'll tell you, is that a tagine is "just anentree." You'll see sections for Chicken Tagines, Lamb Tagines, Vegetable Tagines.
Oh and the Bastillas! When our server first explained the concept, I was like "BWAH?!" You're telling me me you're going to put powdered sugar on top of my chicken? But trust me, what might sound odd, is really very good. The bastillas are one of the more intriguing things I've eaten in a while. They're sort of like a Jamaican roti, but instead of a whole wheat roti bread on the outside, you get several layers of crispy phyllo dough topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. I could order a large chicken bastilla as an entree and leave totally satisfied. Taste of Morocco happens to make these particularly well with a flaky crust and amazing flavor of the meat or vegetable filling. Since dining at Taste of Morocco, I've dined at some other Moroccan restaurants and been very disappointed. One place actually seemed to precook their bastillas and just serve you a reheated slice. Oy!
Although I've stressed the bastillas, you shouldn't miss the other appetizers like harrira, a slightly spicy, tomato-based soup with chick peas, lentils, and various vegetables, or the Moroccan-spiced shredded eggplant, which has a nice smokey flavor.
Your choices for entrees are pretty simple although it might look complex when first looking at the menu. Just start with the basic choice of couscous or tagine. I'm going to tell you right now that you don't want the couscous, unless you're someone who really likes couscous, because there's a LOT of couscous. I just found it boring. Regardless of this choice, the meats are cooked the same way in a clay tagine pot, which consists of a high dome at the top and maintains moisture in the pot while the meat is cooking.
You choices of tagines start with Chicken, Lamb, or Vegetarian, and from there, you get your choice of seasoning. Both the lamb and chicken come out very tender because of the slow cooking method in the tagine pot, which infuses the flavor of the seasoning into the meat. My favorite so far is the chicken with preserved lemon and olive or the spicy chicken. I, and my vegetarian guests on another trip, found the vegetarian tagine to be ok, but a little boring, especially after following up a bastilla.
Dollar-wise, the Moroccan feasts are definitely the way to go because they're a great deal. For around $50 two people get to sample each of the dishes I've described. You each get a choice of soup, an appetizer sampler of Moroccan-spiced eggplant, hummus, carrot salad, and cucumber salad, a small bastilla to share, a tagine, dessert of cookies, and a fruit basket. The only thing is that the fruit basket is lost on me and I feel bad leaving all that fruit just sitting there at the end of the meal. I mean, if I want an apple or banana, I'll go to my local farmer's market.
The choice of wines and beers can be disappointing. The Moroccan beer on the menu is never available (in the Silver Spring location) because they can't get it imported into the state of Maryland, as is the same with the Moroccan wines. To get them, you'll have to go to Taste of Morocco's Arlington location, which personally I found to be a little better than the Silver Spring location. Everything we had there was basically a little better and cheaper as well. The feast itself was about $10 cheaper to start and the wines and beers are cheaper because it's in Virginia instead of Maryland.
(And oh yeah, there's bellydancing too.)
Taste of Morocco
8661 Colesville Rd
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Dress Code: Casual
Parking: For Silver Spring, you have street parking and parking lots which are free on the weekends. In Arlington there is plenty of street parking and public lots.
Closest Metro: Silver Spring and Clarendon.
Reservations: Taken at both locations.
Baby-Child friendly rating: 3 diapers. Plenty of high chairs and the staff is great with children.
Amy's Bathroom Rating: They're acceptable.