Wichita can tack on another cuisine to our diverse restaurant scene and this time it’s Moroccan. Marrakech Cafe opened up in early 2014 and specializes in food from the owner’s native Morocco. This small eatery is a bit tricky to find, as it’s tucked behind the gas station on the SW corner of 21st and Woodlawn, but your search will be rewarded with a delightful meal.
Inside Marrakech are a number of small two and four top tables, so if you have a large group pushing some tables together will be your best option. They also have a glass case full of alluring desserts, which I’m sure would be great if you can manage to save room after your meal.
Since it was our first visit, our waitress kindly walked us through the menu. The highlights of the small menu are the tangine dishes which feature chicken, beef, or lamb cooked with vegetables or fruit in a traditional earthenware pot called a tangine. There is also a chicken pie called a pastilla(or bastilla, depending on translation), which is a phyllo dough pie filled with chicken, onions, and eggs. There are several salads including one with roasted eggplants and tomatoes and the ubiquitous fattoush. Rounding out the menu are some shawarma wraps. On Fridays in Morocco nearly everyone enjoys a couscous meal and the same is true at Marrakech. Every Friday you can enjoy Moroccan couscous layered with meat and veggies.
We had a tough time deciding what to order, but after some deliberation we went with an order of Zaalouk salad, lamb tangine, and a bastilla. The “salad” was the first dish to come out and was more dip-like in nature, at least from an American perspective. Nonetheless it was pure deliciousness. The dip consisted of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, green peppers, and various spices, namely cumin. It was served cold with soft pita chips. Move over hummus because I have found Zaalouk. Next up was the lamb
tangine, which got extra points for presentation as it came out steaming hot in the clay tangine. The waitress pulled back the cover to reveal a nice hunk of lamb shank surrounded by dates and slivered almonds. The lamb was tender and flavorful and was nice change of pace from beef and chicken dishes. The warm dried dates added some sweetness to the dish. Soft baguette bread came with the meal and aided in soaking up some of the juices in the tangine. The final piece of our trilogy of Moroccan delights was the bastilla. The menu describes this dish as a “plate from heaven” and I would say that is not far from the truth. I could see the god of your choice putting his stamp of approval on this concoction.
The phyllo dough pie was filled with shredded chicken, scrambled eggs, onions, and various spices. Sprinkled on top of the pie was a light dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon. It was a sublime pie that could be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or a drunken snack. While it may seem odd, the sweet and savory combination of egg, chicken, sugar, and cinnamon was disturbingly addictive.
Marrakech also has a glass cooler full of desserts that looked good, but we failed to save any room after out meal.
This was my first experience with Moroccan food, but it will not be my last. A visit on Couscous Friday is definitely in the cards. The simple and fairly healthy preparations of flavorful food are sure to appease. Just don’t go there and order a plate of hummus and a shawarma, while I’m sure they are good, you can order that stuff at nearly 42.7% of restaurants in Wichita.
6257 E. 21st.