By Judi Gallagher
I had received several e-mails from readers suggesting that I try the new restaurant called Morocco. After deciding there was clearly a buzz, we ventured over to the former original Gastronomia space at 7119 S. Tamiami Trail. Well, my bad for not jumping in the car the minute they opened. This place is such a find—the food is clearly outstanding and authentic. After years of my complaining that we lack ethnic food, Chef Ammal has brought the influence of the Mediterranean and North Africa to our little city.
Although I am a bit undereducated about Moroccan food, I can tell you it is flavorful and balanced with Greek undertones. One does not need to be afraid of dishes being too spicy. This food is unique, with plenty of dried fruits, almonds and seasoning. If you prefer spicy, however, the chef is happy to accommodate. Morocco offers incredibly delicious vegetarian and vegan entrées, and my first dining experience involved tasty eggplant dishes both as appetizer with preserved lemon, cumin and goat cheese and as an entrée tower in both flavor and display, with feta cheese and a freshly seasoned tomato sauce. This carnivore needs her meat, though, along with fish and poultry. Morocco delivers with tender, moist and layered flavors of duck, chicken and lamb.
Chef Ammal will dazzle your tastebuds with authentic tagine cooking.
Do not be fooled by the simple “read” of the menu; it doesn’t begin to describe the abundance of flavor. Each bite is completely designed for a boastful experience, from the simplest dishes of homemade hummus (sans the tahini) served with homemade wheat bread to the tagine du mouton: tender lamb cubed as a stew with saffron, ginger, carrots, saffron, honey, cinnamon and prunes.
Eggplant and preserved lemon melt together.
The space is comfortable and hints of a full Moroccan experience. Saturday nights offer live entertainment including the traditional belly dancing, but the music can get quite loud, so if you are going with friends who want to carry on a conversation, I recommend dining mid-week. The experience will be much softer and more relaxing. Ask for Jenny; her service and passion for describing the rich style of cuisine and Moroccan wines make the experience like having a personal culinary travel guide. And do not leave without trying the homemade flan with rosewater and Moroccan hot tea with fresh mint.