Day 12: Morocco
Does a good meal require good service? No. I have had some wonderful meals served incredibly slowly by gruff waiters who don’t give a crap what I think of the meal. I don’t care whether a server pretends to like me at the restaurant or they just drop the food off. I’m pretty sure that if Thomas Keller made me dinner and it was brought to the table by Adolf Hitler, it would still taste pretty damn fantastic. Yet so far on this project, the truly great meals have had a connection between the kitchen and the table. The people who worked there knew how good the food was and it affected their mood. At Lotus of Siam and Phong Dinh, the servers didn’t pretend they cared about our meal, they actually cared. Heck, even at The Disaster of Ba Ba Reeba, the servers cared a little. The good meals have had pride. But at Dar Maghreb on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California, things were a little different.
We managed to wrangle a fairly large group for this meal, thanks once again to super food blogger Tannaz, who set up a less expensive fixed course meal through her belly dancing instructor. Tannaz, Spenny Loafers, Mr. Meatball, Bosque, Air Bear, MamaBites and GirlfriendBites, along with some other friends, all made it out for this one. Before we arrive, GirlfriendBites says “I guarantee there’s going to be one creepy guy who joins in on the belly dancing and gets way too into it.” We’ll see about that. From the moment we walk in the door, I’m a little skeptical— but hey. I’ve heard that some people have had great meals here, so I’m willing to give it a shot. Then we start getting service. Eventually. To call it abysmal would be an understatement. It takes a half hour to order drinks from when they start bringing us food. Every request to order a beverage is met with “Yes. Soon.” Whatever. Restaurants get busy and I don’t mind if they’re slow.
But is there a connection between the kitchen and the table? Do the servers take any pride in their job? Are they even pretending to be in a good mood? No, no and dear God no. Not only do they look miserable and depressed, they also look resigned to their fate. Their mouths say nothing, but their faces say “Just take this fucking bread before I kill myself.” To be honest, I am legitimately concerned for their long term health. No one should ever have to wear outfits like these and serve people like me in a place like this. I mean it. No one.
We get our bread and vegetable salads (eggplant, roasted pepper, etc.) Not bad at all. Totally respectable. I always say that good food will make up for any service, so maybe we’re on the right track. Two of us get our lentil soup, then about five or ten minutes later the rest of us get it. The soup is average and we sure could use some more bread. There are no servers to be found, but on the plus side that means Bosque can just get up, grab a basket of bread that’s sitting on the floor and serve us himself. We finish our first course, then about ten minutes later our drinks arrive. Hey, I remember those! I take a sip of GirlfriendBites vodka tonic and realize there isn’t enough alcohol in there to get a home schooled college freshman buzzed.
As our server silently contemplates the merits of a noose versus a tall building, he brings us our chicken and lamb. The food is okay. If I was at Red Lobster I’d be pleasantly surprised, but I’m at an expensive Moroccan restaurant. The lamb is extremely sweet, but tender. The chicken is mostly pretty good, although the breast meat is a tad drier than it ought to be. I suck on some lamb marrow and am blown away by how sweet it is. It’s like sucking a melted candy bar through a straw. We are nearly finished with our food when a big plate of couscous comes. Wow. You know what would have been great? If that was actually served as a side dish with our entree. I soon discover that the other part of our group— eating at a separate table— got their couscous about fifteen minutes ago. That makes sense, right?
Now comes desert. It is essentially the same as the Persian “zoolbia”— fried, chewy, crunchy lattice shaped dough soaked in syrup. Spenny Loafers takes a bite and calls it “Doughnut cereal.” It is traditionally served with tea, which arrives just as we are finishing our desert.
At this point, we have already witnessed some slightly awkward belly dancing, but now, apparently, the real show begins. MamaBites leaves quickly with a “I have to pick up my daughter from her friend’s house.” Hmm. Spenny Loafers turns to Air Bear and says “Noah’s mom left. Does that mean we can leave too?” The highlight of the night is food super blogger Tannaz getting peer pressured into joining a group on the floor for some belly dancing. Then, right on cue, a creepy guy joins in who is way too into it. Score one for GirlfriendBites.
So what is this place? If the food was better, I would have been much happier going here, but clearly it’s not a huge priority for them. So what about atmosphere? It is what they seem to hang their hat on. There are fountains, belly dancers and fancy pillows, but…what about the servers? They haven’t exactly been trained in customer relations. In the end, Dar Maghreb feels like a throw back to the Hollywood that doesn’t care about historical accuracy. The Hollywood where Marlon Brando can play a Japanese guy in “Teahouse of the August Moon”. A place where you can spend a lot of money, order a lot of drinks and slide singles into a belly dancer’s dress while you’re sitting with your wife and kids. But if it is a throwback, nobody here seems to care. Anyway, I hear they’re about to close for remodeling. I’d say it’s about time.
7651 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Food Breakdown: 9 alcoholic beverages, 11 person fixed price meal
Distance From My House: 6.9 miles