a Moroccan feast at Tajine, San Francisco

by foodhoe on October 10, 2011

1653 Polk Street, SF, CA 94109 | 415.440.1718 | website

I met up with my favorite dining crew for a lovely feast at Tajine Restaurant recently. JT always finds exotic cuisines from far-off lands for us to explore, so we gathered to sample a variety of tagines, the slow-cooked savory stews from North Africa that are named after the special conical earthenware pot in which they are cooked.  The cuisine is full of deep earthy flavors distinguished by rich fragrant spices which come from an exotic blend of Arab, Berber, Moorish, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean African, Iberian, and Jewish influences.  The restaurant seats around 40 and seemed pretty loud.  Most tables arrived with their own beer and wine, as the restaurant doesn’t serve any and most importantly, doesn’t charge corkage.

We began our feast with the Chicken Bastilla ($12), which is made with layers of delicately crisp filo pastry stuffed with meltingly tender chicken, chopped almonds and egg that has been cooked in a savory aromatic sauce.  The pie is sprinkled with powdered sugar and fragrant cinnamon and the brilliant flavors thrill your senses with the exhilarating combination of sweet and savory.  The variety of textures and complex flavors of this dish had me spellbound…

We also ordered Reghaif ($8) baked bread stuffed with sautéed spicy ground beef and onions with shermoula, a spicy dip and cured olives.  It seemed quite plain after the sensory explosion from the bastilla which still held me in its thrall.

We moved onto the Catch of the Day, Salmon Tajine ($14), which was prepared in a spicy sharmoula sauce with veggies.  I had to look up sharmoula sauce, which is also spelled chermoula.  It is a North African pesto made with parsley, cilantro, cumin, paprika, fresh lemon and olive oil.  Click for the recipe here.  This was by far the spiciest dish we ordered, full of veggie chunks, salmon that melts in your mouth all swimming in a spicy flavorful soup.  The tajines were all served with homemade bread, which was airy like focaccia and soaked up the juices like a sponge.

Lamb Couscous ($14), slow simmered lamb with prunes and roasted almonds served with couscous.  Yum… this was my favorite dish, and Michaela’s too.  Couscous is a granular semolina that is fluffy and tender and so good topped with the rich savory stew.  It flatters the earthy spices and velvety textures, and doesn’t become soggy or bloated.

From this point on, we had so many dishes on the table that I lost track of things…  Mr. K ordered the Casa Tajine ($9) green beans and potatoes prepared with olive oil, garlic and spices.  I don’t think I tried this dish at all, and I heard Mr. K asking for some hot sauce, which he said made everything taste so much better.

Lamb Mechoui kabab ($14), two skewers of broiled lamb served with stewed vegetables over couscous.  The slow- roasted lamb is cooked until tender enough to be pulled apart and eaten with the fingers, which I did.

Royal Couscous Mechoui ($15) which was a combination of lamb, chicken and merguez kabob served with piles of stewed vegetables over couscous.  The merguez sausage was an unusual red color and a little squishy for my taste.

Kufta Kebab, ($8) ground beef mixed with the special blend of spices, served with bread, taktouka made from bell peppers, tomatoes, parsley and garlic cooked in olive oil, shalada (tomatoes, green onion and parsley) and zaalook (garlicky eggplant and tomatoes).

We ordered the Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($9) for Michaela, who is 4 and isn’t into spicy yet.  The chicken kabob was marinated in a heady blend of spices which was too much for her but pretty tasty to the rest of us (although we remained focused on the tajine and couscous dishes).  It is served in a french roll (which had some of the bulk removed) along with shalada (a mixture of tomatoes, green onions, and parsley tossed with lemon juice and olive oil) and fries.  This dish would be an awesome lunch btw…

We ended our meal with two Moroccan Cookie Platters ($5), each consisted of two items: Shepakia which is made of flour, almonds, sesame seeds, honey and orange blossom water, and Baklava which was a rich and dense confection  of cinnamon and chopped almonds (not pistachio) rolled in filo dough and drenched with honey.  I should have ordered the mint tea to go with these as they were really quite sweet.

I’d recommend that you come here with a group because there are so many different dishes, and you really must order at the very minimum, the Bastilla, a couscous and a tajine.  And don’t forget to bring a bottle of wine!

Tajine on Urbanspoon

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