Eating in Rabat Part 1: Camel, Rosé and Baby Tagines…

31 January – 1 February 2017

I quickly adjusted to being in North Africa and if my room was not so weird and hazardous I would have given myself time to mourn the loss of someone very dear to me earlier in the day. The lunch at Antica Boheme in Rome helped, but the horrible wait and flight really put my head in a tailspin…

I needed some food, and definitely no booze.I don’t want to fall into that spiral here in Rabat this first night, and the way my room is laid out I would fall and die if I drank, so… I headed out into the Medina and really, this is one of the most orderly, brightly-lit medinas I’ve ever seen. I found easily the place I was looking for, a restaurant named Dar Rbatia.

It’s a family-run place but it sure doesn’t look like it with the fancy interior. Cozy, and a very low-flame indoor heating lamp that I happily sat away from. They only have set menus as it is a small, family-run place, so I ordered from it and relaxed with a big ol’ bottle of still water. No booze tonight… I relaxed and tried to not think too much. Then soon my series of starters arrived, and it’s a colourful display certainly.

a1-salads_edited

These baby tagines had various salads in them, from eggplant and pepper to chickpeas, as well as some cauliflower and carrots. With bread, this was a nice way to start to enjoy each of them. I remembered, thank goodness, the thing about left hand eating, so didn’t get stared at… Good stuff! Then they brought out some varied briouat for me too…

a2-fried-morsels

The chicken was nice, the cheese one was just pure joy, and the beef and spinach one was very nice too. Then the main dish arrived, chicken.

a3-chicken

Wonderful aroma, lovely sauce. May not look like much but this was a joy in a tagine. The sauce, still sizzling was graced by endless amounts of giblets that crusted near the bottom, which added to my enjoyment as an offal eater. The chicken was ridiculously tender and juicy, putting almost any chicken place in North America to total shame. Damn this was so juicy… I destroyed this plate and all of the salad and was a full and happy boy at this point.

a4-pastilla

The dessert, the sweet pastilla, was a bit of a disappointment as it was hard to eat and seemed to be overdone. Anyway, otherwise this was a fantastic meal, and not too expensive at about 25 euro.

I thanked them for the excellent evening and I grabbed my water (there was still a litre left in the bottle!) and walked back to my hotel. Finally, some privacy and a dark room, and I could spend a little time mourning. A terribly sad day had finally come to an end…

It was a rough night, but I also managed to catch up on some sleep and sleep in a little in the morning. I felt drained and empty, and what was intolerable pain seems a little less this morning — unfortunately transforming from internal to external. I headed out for a long walk around Rabat, and of course a long-dormant plantar fasciitis problem returns at the worst time…

I walked it off as best as I could, and went towards the Oudayas and just hung out at the overlook to the beach below. I just relaxed, trying to avoid the hoardes of Chinese tourists that were so annoying I wanted to slap one of them. I ended up just watching some kids play football on an improvised pitch on the beach. Top skills for these youngsters, the dream is still burning in each and every one of them. But really, perhaps a metaphor for the national side, they need to work on their defense as there were so many dodgy plays that ended up gifting goals…

I walked over to the Hassan Tower and Mohamad V’s Mausoleum and kept walking. I went to where I was planning to have lunch — just to see it shuttered. Oh well, no info online about it shutting down… So I walked another 20 minutes in the other direction to where I had planned to go tomorrow, Tajine Wa Tanjia.

This place near the train station seems to have some dishes that are harder to find, so I was happy to check it out. I was the only customer as this was the priciest place on this street next to the train station. The slow-moving elderly server was friendly but whenever I didn’t go with his recommendation he seemed to move even slower. My French is awful, especially when it’s strewn with local terms, so that took ages to figure out what to order. But then I did and also decided to have some wine.

I relaxed and they brought the wine. A cheap but wonderful locally-produced rosé. What a great find, crispy and smooth, easy to drink and tasty. My goodness I can imagine this becoming a huge sorority hit in the US… In any case, I enjoyed this as they also brought out some soup and nice spicy olives.

b1-seafood-pastilla

Enjoyed all this slowly before the starter arrived, the pastilla with seafood. Rather good, stuffed with vermicelli and all sorts of chopped seafood. Nice and tasty, a good start. Worked so well with this rosé as well…

Not soon after I see this terracotta urn, or a tanjia, brought out — it’s my main. The server demonstratively punches a hole in the sealed top and pours out the contents into a dish…and it’s still heavily sizzling…

b2-camel-tanjia

This is a traditional camel stew with a wonderful base that just begs for lots of bread to mop up. The camel was very good, with different types of chunks that featured the meat, a little fatty bits, and even some tendon that worked beautifully stewed. Solid dish, and it was indeed soaked up by a lot of bread.

And for those of you wondering? Yes, it tastes like pork. Nearly everyone I know who have accidentally eaten pork in this part of the world have told me it tasted like camel…

That was nice. I had a bit more wine so I ordered a dessert. They were out of my first choice, so I went with the cheese-filled briouat. I could hear it frying up in the kitchen and it soon arrived…

b3-cheese-briouat

Nice, not too sweet the cheese inside. Though I couldn’t really taste any caramel that the menu promised. Not bad, and I’m totally full. I thanked them and settled up and headed out.

I was stuffed and it was hot outside, 21c…ugh… By the time I walked back to my hotel in about 20 minutes of my usual fast pace I was soaked in sweat…and once again stared at by everyone (who were all wearing coats)…

A frustrating afternoon trying to sort out some trip logistics and other unexpected surprises that arrived via email, problems compounded by a really crappy wifi at my ryad. Not impressed by this place at all. Friendly is one thing, but when your room is a death trap, with failing wifi and people outside able to watch you in the shower? No. This place, L’Alcazar, I cannot recommend…

I headed out just as the entire city seemed to be out on their evening stroll. My goodness, the amount of people walking slower than snails all arm-linked makes Italy look like a bunch of zipping cats… It was a disaster fighting through the people through the Medina, and throw in a few idiots on motorbikes fighting with elderly ladies pulling full carts and it just turns into human gridlock…

By the time I got near the train station I was drained…not physically, but mentally. I really don’t have the mental patience to deal with places like this for more than 2 days, and I was gonna be here for 3 — to be honest, at least 1 too long… I should have kept my stay here at 2 days…too late now.

I got to Le Petit Beur, my dinner destination. I sat down and chilled out and fought the menu a bit as the French was a bit more challenging here since the dishes were more intricate. And of course the blackboard specials, which ironically was easy to read…

I ordered and needed to unwind, so unwisely I ordered a whole bottle of rosé. Another nice local one, though not as good as the one at lunch. I chilled until the first item arrived, and my heart sank…

c1-cream-soup

This is supposed to be cream of beans and peas, but all I see is an oil slick with something coagulated on the bottom. This was pretty disgusting to be honest… I didn’t get through much of it, since thank goodness my starter also arrived.

c2-briouat

Now these briouat were quite excennet, filled with all sorts of goodies featuring prawns. Very tasty, which gave me a perfect excuse to abandon that awful “soup” to the side. Really nice. After a bit they cleared all of it, realising that I was not touching the soup again.

I kept at the wine and the place was filling up a bit. Seems popular with the French ex-pat community here… But then my main arrived, the lamb tagine with pear.

c3-lamb-tajine

This was one of the chalkboard specials so I had hoped for a lot. It was tasty, good with bread, but there was almost no meat on the lamb itself. That was too bad. I guess the bread is how you fill yourself up. But the sauce was excellent, no doubt about that.

Since I had more wine left I stupidly ordered a dessert — the milk pastilla. I’ve not had good ones since I arrived (any dessert pastillas) and guess what?

c4-pastilla

That didn’t change. Not good. Tasteless, stuff all over the place, filling barely showed up. Oh well. Gave me time to finish my wine and prepare for the trek back. I thanked the staff and headed out.

Walk back was far more manageable now it was a bit later, but still enough roadblocks to make it a living video game. And of course, the wifi was still barely working when I got back. How lovely… I need to just collapse — without dying in this hazardous room…

Dar Rbatia
6 Rue Farane Khachane

Tajine Wa Tanjia
9 Rue Baghdad

Le Petit Beur
8 Rue Damas
Rabat, Morocco

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One thought on “Eating in Rabat Part 1: Camel, Rosé and Baby Tagines…

  1. Pingback: Eating in Rabat Part 2: A Muddy Medina, Couscous, and More Baby Tagines… | melhuang1972

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