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— Travel + Leisure · Guide to Marrakesh · created over 2 years ago
Marrakesh wallops the senses, a riot of colors, sounds, and, of course, tastes. There is no better place to favor the diversity of North African cuisine—lamb, couscous, eggplant, all redolent of cumin, saffron, and the crimson pepper sauce harissa—than this ancient crossroads. By Anya Von Bremzen. Adapted from "Dishes of Marrakesh," Travel + Leisure, December 2011. http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/best-restaurants-in-marrakeshRead more...
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The definitive version of Morocco's baroque pigeon pie. Crunchy yet light without the usual excess dusting of sugar, the pastry encloses a sweet-savory marvel of tender, chunky braised pigeon in a plush ambience of ground almonds and beaten eggs. It arrives redolent of orange-flower water and a complex blend of spices.
Why schlep to Morocco for a bowl of spaghetti? Because Campania's über-chef Alfonso Iaccarino is the genius behind this restaurant in the La Mamounia hotel. A vibrant sugo of baby tomatoes clings just so to the al dente pasta, a single fragrant basil leaf the only garnish. It's an essay in sunny simplicity.
Run by the female members of the Chab clan and specializing in the intricate flavors of Fez, Al Fassia Aguedal is equally adored by tourists, opinionated French expats, and local foodies. Don't miss the majestic whole lamb shoulder for two—slowly roasted, its brown, burnished glaze is punctuated by almonds.
At the extravagant Royal Mansour hotel, owned by the king of Morocco, the regal highlight is this complex veal-and-apricot stew, buried in a mound of ethereal, thrice-steamed vermicelli ornamented with almonds and cinnamon.
It's billed as nouvelle marocaine, but chef-owner Moha Fedal takes an ancien approach to Morocco's signature semolina grains. Midway through the degustation menu, a duo of couscous dishes invites you to compare earthier Berber-style barley pellets with the more familiar durum wheat, here as light and fluffy as snowflakes.
Beauties with kohl-rimmed eyes tend to order panini and pizza, but you should opt for the smoky carnivorous offerings: succulent minced lamb kofte, perfect beef brochettes, flash-charred lamb chops. No tasting, please, without the taktuka, a zesty, garlicky tomato-and-green-pepper relish.
At his branch in upscale Guéliz, Haj Mostapha N'Guyer serves spectacular lamb: roasted in an underground clay pit until meltingly tender, sold by weight (request the moist neck and rib meat), and served on butcher paper with cumin salt. Your flatbread roll serves as plate, utensil, napkin, and absorber of the rich, fatty goodness.
Tasting your way through the square can be challenging: the tablecloth stalls are filled with tourists, while the authentic ones can require a stomach of steel. So follow our lead to Hassan, for juicy merguez sausages served at a tin counter thronged by big families.
The meal of your life...at a gas station? A 20-minute hop from town—and an agreeable distance from the pumps—coals smolder beneath the blackened conical pots. Good luck choosing between a whole country chicken, pungent with preserved lemons and olives, and tender beef shank fragrant with cloves and sweet, smoky prunes.