Marrakesh - Costa Mesa
If I wanted a more transportive Moroccan experience, I think I'd need a passport and a caravan of camels.
It begins with a wash basin brought to your table. The server then pours warm water as you hold your hands out so that you can cleanse your icky fingers before feasting.
I went to Marrakesh during Costa Mesa Restaurant Week, which entitled me to a 3-course meal for $20 that started with either the hummus, a soup or salad, then a choice of entree, and finally a dessert and that mint tea.
The hummus wasn't overly acidic as most other hummuses tend to be, but rather tasted of the pure smoothness of chickpea, the paste to be lapped up with pillows of pita as puffy as baseball mitts.
There was a leg of chicken roasted with olives, preserved lemon and thinly sliced fried potatoes served in a tagine, those funnel-shaped vessels that look like ceramic bullhorns.
The best main course was the couscous, the fluffiest I've ever had, with hunks of pumpkin, a skewer of chicken and a lamb sausage that tasted like a spicy cross between a Slim Jim and chorizo.
A flaky, honey-drenched baklava came last and as I licked my fingers, my glass was refilled, over and over, with that intoxicating tea. I sat back, sinking slowly into that cushy couch.
And yes, at the urging of my friends, I tipped the belly dancer when she came around, and it embarrassed me more than it was worth, but then that's the whole point, I think.
1976 Newport Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Pandor Artisan Boulangerie & Café - Newport Beach