>> [CLOSED] Bab Marrakech | Eat the World NYC

19 November 2017

[CLOSED] Bab Marrakech



Moroccan food has come and gone from Bay Ridge in the past, some restaurants excelled while others were just ok. Regardless, they all shuttered and left a void for a neighborhood that is still home to many Moroccans. Bab Marrakech looks to rectify this and already seems to be a popular place, serving up delicious meals and acting as something of a community center for fans of Moroccan professional football teams and their national team.

Passing by here a couple Saturdays ago, the place was full of men cheering for Wydad Casablanca as they competed in the finals of the African Champions League against Al Ahly Sporting Club from Cairo. With a big World Cup qualifier approaching for Morocco, this was noted and plans immediately made to return.

When we arrived 45 minutes before kickoff, tables were already filling up but we were welcomed to fill one as long as we were here to enjoy the match. Our group of five ordered some strong and sweet Moroccan mint tea (above) and settled in as more and more men came to watch. Moods were excited, but anxious. This match against Côte d'Ivoire saw them as underdogs, but a win would mean qualification.

Before deciding on the full meal, we followed the lead of a man at the next table and ordered one msemen with honey ($3, below), a North African take on pancakes. The chewy layers are very pleasant and a great accompaniment to the tea.

At any Moroccan restaurant, it is almost unavoidable that a bowl of harira will show up at my table. On a visit to the country, I found that most restaurants were geared towards tourists and the food just was not that good. Bucking this trend were night markets and many vendors serving harira each night. On many occasions, I would make my way from vendor to vendor in each city visited and sample each chef's recipe. The bowl below is just $3.50 and comes with at least one basket of bread. In a pinch, a customer could come here and get full just on this.

The group's attention all seemed to go straight for the tagine with plums and almonds ($12, below), which lives in the "special of the house" section of the menu. A tagine is named after the dish it is usually cooked and served in, but only the latter here. Regardless, the lamb is delectable and the sweetness of this particular mix coupled with the spices so well.

Not much different, the lamb shank ($13, below) is another wonderful piece of meat served this time in a more savory sauce and cooked with potatoes, carrots, and peas.

The merguez plate ($10, below) comes with a side of fries of salad. Choose the salad, which comes with olives and good goat cheese. The sausages themselves are a bit on the dry end and beg to be eaten with some of the other sauces and soups that are on the table.

Not on the menu, our waitress told us about a special they offered on Fridays and Saturdays that perked everyone's ears. Rfissa ($10, below) is a massive dish that is usually served for special occasions, chicken and lentils cooked long enough to make everything very tender. Scraps of bread are added for chewy texture (and traditionally to get rid of the stale bits from days before), and the whole thing is laced with many spices.

[UPDATE: 06 February 2018, a chicken pastilla ($8, below) from a second visit]

As the match progressed and Morocco took a surprise lead, the proprietor, a musician who has played around the world, brought in a drum and began to lead chants. The atmosphere in the restaurant went from great to amazing, and when Morocco scored their second goal there was a sense that today was destined to happen for the country. The following scenes took place during and after the game, inside and then onto the street when the celebration needed more space and air.

A plate of free sweets (below) awaited us back at the table. Thank you to the staff here and all the patrons for welcoming us into their group on such an important day for the country.

A second plate on a second visit.

🇲🇦 🇲🇦 🇲🇦

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