At Mataam Fez, meals are about more than the food. The restaurant exudes both the warm hospitality and the festive traditions of Morocco, creating a vibrant dining experience that brings a small piece of northern Africa to Denver.
Every meal is a five-course feast that begins with an opportunity for guests to wash their hands using lightly scented lemon water. After selecting an entree from the menu—which includes dishes such as honey-glazed cornish game hen with apricots and roasted almonds as well as vegetarian couscous with seasonal vegetables—tables receive orders of savory harira soup, assorted Moroccan salads, and a b’stella pastry appetizer before the main courses arrive. The palate-cleansing course of fresh fruit and mint tea then herald the end of the meal.
The spirit of Morocco isn’t constrained to the menu, however. It also heavily influences the restaurant’s decor and ambiance. Colorful cushions surround the low teak-inlaid tables, which allows diners to enjoy their meal in traditional Moroccan fashion: seated on the floor and eating with their hands instead of silverware or telekinetic powers. Although brightly colored tapestries and shining brassware adorn the walls, most eyes are drawn to the professional belly dancers who occasionally weave between the tables.
Diners leave their passports and carry-ons at home and embark on culinary odysseys to Tajine Alami, enjoying four- or six-course meals of traditional Moroccan cuisine. After leaving their shoes at the door, guests tuck into six-part dinner travelogues ($32/person; $27 vegetarian) starting with their choice of lamb-lentil or vegetarian soup followed by second and third rounds of homemade honey wheat khobz bread and a platter of Moroccan salad. Tables share the flaky fourth-course bastella, mining the phyllo-dough crust to uncover a subterranean civilization ruled by chicken, spiced eggs, almonds, and an austere oligarchy. Individual tastes take the front seat as eaters select one of the chicken, lamb, seafood, or veggie entrees simmering in the kitchen, all slow-cooked with a few friends in a traditional clay tajine or served over a pile of couscous. Baklava and hot mint tea close out the evening with a sweet curtain call and politely turn down requests to play "Where the Streets Have No Name.” Visitors afraid of overstuffing can select the slimmed down four-course experience and forego the salad and bastella ($24/person, $21 vegetarian) while youths peruse selections from the children's menu ($10.99).