Vivid scarves trail the movements of a belly dancer, who is herself echoing the vivacious rhythms of a North African tune. The spectacle serves as a multi-sensory spice alongside a feast of Moroccan cuisine at Mamounia, a thrilling eatery that evokes the mystique of Marrakech with traditional foods served in immersive environs. As they take in the candlelit scene, guests can share hot or cold mezzes of fattousk salads and phyllo dough chicken bastilla pastries, or feast on main courses of quail kebab, slow-cooked wild salmon, and sweet lamb-shank couscous.
Special occasions call for a three- or five-course dinner of lamb and chicken stews, baklava and mint tea, while off-site catering rings in birthdays and court dates with fragrant soups, fresh salads, and savory kabobs.
Dips made from fire-roasted eggplant or bell peppers, known respectively as zaolook and shakshooka, top pieces of pita bread and slices of house-baked flatbread at ASHA Moroccan Mediterranean Kitchen. Many of the traditional recipes used in the kitchen come from owner Hend Elarabi's own mother, according to the OC Weekly blog, and treat taste buds to flavor combinations that will be new to many diners. Slow-cooked lentils join fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and Moroccan herbs in the adeesa, Hend's favorite appetizer, and dried plums lend their sweetness to bits of roasted lamb in pots of lamb tajeen. To add to the traditional ambiance set by the restaurant's cuisine, belly dancers provide entertainment, offer shimmy lessons, and translate stomach growls into English throughout the week.
Grilled chicken, shrimp, and filet mignon kebabs lie upon beds of traditional couscous at Marrakesh, a restaurant devoted to introducing diners to authentic Moroccan cuisine. Chefs assemble chicken-stuffed bastilles—a type of filo-dough pot pie covered with powdered sugar and cinnamon—and marinate morsels of lamb in a sweet honey sauce. They also send out Harira, a Moroccan soup, and three traditional Moroccan salads with every prix fixe dinner. Meals draw to a close with pieces of homemade baklava and fragrant glasses of mint tea, which aid digestion and freshen breath more pleasantly than a mouth full of soap.
Babouch Moroccan Restaurant cradles patrons in the invigorating spirit of Morocco as vibrant tapestries and ornate ceiling canopies surround a menu of traditional North African dishes. Between the fluted edges of golden tables, skewered preparations of beef and seafood descend alongside zesty accents of couscous, honey, and prunes as eggplant and lentils adorn a range of meat-free dishes. A colorful selection of craft cocktails and international wines merges with succulent frappe blends to balance the exotic flavors. Each night, performances by male and female belly dancers suffuse the space with eye-catching movement and jingling sound, whereas tarot readings lend guests a glimpse of the future without the meticulous hemming required of ripping a hole in the space-time continuum.
Chef Nicolas T. Peter is something of a magician. Though he acquires ingredients from local farmers' markets, his seasonal menus produce meals that feel like they were plucked off tables at a Mediterranean bistro. The farm-to-fork philosophy means the selection is ephemeral, but previous menus have included dishes such as mustard-grilled rack of lamb with madeira wine, and oxtail tagine with baby turnips, chickpeas, and tomatoes. Seasonality extends to a rotating selection of cocktails, and the diverse wine list includes varietals from Israel, Slovenia, South Africa, and Mars. The fresh, colorful food fits right in with the Little Door’s bucolic dining spaces. On the Patio, a tiled fountain bubbles into a koi pond, and the scent of bougainvillea floats into the sun-drenched open air. A bamboo ceiling offers shelter in the Winter Garden, where cerulean chairs and lush greenery add color to an otherwise whitewashed room. Inside, a pianist sets the mood in the smaller Piano Room, which absorbs light from the adjacent Patio, while beautiful stained-glass windows and exposed beams give the Blue Room a more rustic vibe and a reason to not be so sad.