285 Foodies

Restaurants & Coffee Houses => Metro Atlanta => Topic started by: Loundry on November 28, 2009, 01:41:12 PM

Title: Imane Moroccan Restaurant (Duluth)
Post by: Loundry on November 28, 2009, 01:41:12 PM
Steve and I mourn the loss of the old Virginia-Highlands Moroccan restaurant Casbah.  For me, what I miss most about that restaurant were its shladas (Moroccan appetizerish salads).  Since then, we've cooked some Moroccan food, even going so far as to attempt to make preserved lemons (success) and smen (Moroccan aged butter - fail).  My eyes always sparkle with amazement whenever some TV producer films on location in a Moroccan market with its expanses of gleaming, perfectly-stacked cones of olives and mounds of fantastic spices.

We were at Imane last night, November 27, 2009, and the server indicated that they had opened on November 12, 2009.  The interior is decorated Moroccan style with two separate eat-on-the-floor areas and the rest low, glass-top, dark wicker tables.  They all come with short, uncomfortable matching chairs and a matching hostess stand.  If you're lucky, try and grab a seat with the built-in low sofa.  Steve thought it was uncomfortable, but my ottomanette-cum-uncomfy-chair was killing me by the time the evening was over.  We were there at 6PM on a Friday and it was pretty dead.  The server indicated that they "get really busy" on Friday and Saturday nights.  "We have live entertainment", she revealed.  Speaking of music, the music that was playing loudly throughout the meal sounded like a mix between Moroccan music and nightclub music.

We drank water and Moroccan mint tea.  The tea was good - sweet, hot, and minty, as it should be - but it's expensive.  We ordered the "medium pot" ($5) and it was, in reality, two servings.  Steve made sure to moisten the table by lifting the pot really high in the air while he poured the tea.

Anyway, on to the food.  I must first comment that there was very little spice used in anything.  This was a grave disappointment because eating Moroccan food means eating a complex mix of spices.  Most notably missing was cumin, my favorite spice and a frequent guest in Moroccan spice blends.  It appeared nowhere!

- Zaalook: There is a Persian restaurant that does this dish correctly: it should be smoky, with chunks of eggplant so it almost tastes meaty.  By comparison, this dish was almost pureed, heavy on the tomatoes, and dull.  C-, but moved to a C+ with the addition of harissa (below).

- Harissa: We asked for some harissa (Moroccan chile paste, used as a condiment in Moroccan food) and the server complied by bringing a mini-tagine (Moroccan cooking/serving vessel with a cone-shaped lid) of harissa.  We used this in just about everything, and Steve commented to me that the harissa I make at home is superior and I agreed.  The harissa at this restaurant tasted like chile mixed with olive oil; not bad, but missing the breadth and depth of flavor of my own as I add toasted, ground cumin and coriander and raw garlic.  C.

- Briwate: These are Moroccan spring rolls.  We had a choice of chicken, seafood, or kefta (meatball) stuffing, and we chose the kefta.  The filling was flavorless, unseasoned ground beef.  The briwate themselves were drippingly oily.  It was served with a tame, nearly-flavorless thin mayonnaise-ish dipping sauce.  Lame.  D-.

- El Basha Couscous: I guess that the "El Basha" here means "serve it with a combination of meats".  The couscous itself was in a clay vessel that was resting on top of another jug-like clay vessel which contained the broth.  The jug came with a small ladle.  The idea, I believe, is to ladle the broth over the couscous and then strip the meats from the skewers on top of the couscous.  That's what I did.  I should rate everything in this dish separately because it was all over the place.  Broth: thin, weak, not very meaty, not complex, not spiced.  Contained cooked-to-death carrots, cooked-to-death onions, and cooked-to-death zucchini.  D.  Couscous: Totally plain.  C.  Adding the boring broth did not improve it.  C.  Chicken skewer: Chicken.  Not bad is the best thing I can write about it.  C+.  Lamb rib chop: I love rack of lamb.  This was just one chop.  It was cooked medium.  B-.  Kefta skewer: Miserable.  Worst kefta I've ever eaten.  It was very difficult to remove from the skewer and just as difficult to eat.  Tough as leather but with less flavor.  F.  Overall grade: D+.

- Shlada: I ordered this because I was afraid that my dish wasn't going to be "green enough".  This was a salad of diced tomatoes, onions, and grilled green bell chiles with some delicious olive oil and herbs.  It tasted very juicy and tomatoey.  Delicious!  A.

- Assorted Platter: This was Steve's dish, from under the "From the Grill" section of the menu.  He received the same four meats that I received for my couscous dish (above), and his comments about them matched mine.  He was served a tiny serving of the shlada that I had ordered, and he loved it as much as I did.  The real surprise on Steve's plate was the couscous that he chose as a side dish (choosing it over "french fries").  His couscous was herbed and contained field peas and corn, but, most remarkably, it has a strong toasty flavor that was very delicious.  I tried to identify the flavor as a spice, but ended up concluding that they must have first toasted the dry couscous before steaming it.  Steve's couscous was an A, as was his tiny salad, but the other means were just as mediocre as mine were.

Overall, we were quite disappointed.  Why didn't they spice anything?  There are so many missed opportunities to add flavor in an entirely Moroccan way.  Are they trying to "dumb it down" for American tastes?

Overall grade: D.

Edit: I forgot that I had taken some photographs.  The first is the Zaalook, the second the Briwate, and the third the couscous dish.  One good thing about this restaurant is that I thought they had really nice dishes.  The couscous coming in that jug/plate combo felt really special.  If only it tasted as special as the serving vessel appeared...
Title: Re: Imane Moroccan Restaurant (Duluth)
Post by: Chloe on November 29, 2009, 11:15:19 PM
I went opening day for lunch and was a bit disappointed with the taste of the food.  I have been back for dinner (same so-so food) and find the prices a little too steep.  Of course, the live entertainment has everything to do with the price tag.  I am planning to visit again this week just to give them another chance.  So far, it's not destination worthy.