Moroccan-style food for Korean palates

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Moroccan-style food for Korean palates

While the majority of restaurants in the world named Marrakesh prepare traditional Moroccan cuisine, Marrakesh, a restaurant and dining bar located inside the new high-end fashion complex Table 2025 in southern Seoul, offers a Morocco-inspired atmosphere.
When Marrakesh’s heavy black door closes behind you, you enter a welcome oasis in the middle of the concrete city.
Inside, diaphanous red curtains divide the spacious restaurant into semi-private booths dimly lit with glass lanterns; each lounge is furnished with low tables and piles of cushions, along with velvet sofas and ottomans.
As if meant for a sheik and his harem, there’s a tent draped in yards of taffeta and tassels where a party of five can have a private gathering. A blue urn spouts streams of water near the more conventional-looking dining area behind the tent.
The opulence and surreptitiousness of the place call for sensual belly dancers, but the chatty customers are mostly Koreans dressed in Gucci sipping Dom Perignon. In the background is lounge music.
The manager-sommelier, Philip Ko, says he didn’t necessarily want Marrakesh to be a traditional Moroccan restaurant but rather an elegant dining bar with a bit of exotic flair, because Moroccan food can be too adventurous for Koreans.
Marrakesh boasts an impressive champagne list. For connoisseurs, Mr. Ko suggests the 1995 Salon Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay at 450,000 won ($450 plus 10 percent VAT), and for casual imbibers, the no-vintage Brut Heritage Delbeck at 90,000 won for a 375 milliliter bottle.
The food is French-Moroccan, with a menu that lists foie gras, lamb chops, beef steak and grilled seafood as well as couscous, tagines and pico pasta. But the wheat bread, served with creamy butter, is not the kind that caters to European diners, but to Koreans who prefer soft, sweet bread.
While French dishes remain popular choices, for those seeking Moroccan cuisine, the Korean chef, Jay Lee, recommended pan-fried dried ham and asparagus with pico pasta (45,000 won), couscous with lamb tagine (30,000 won) or Moroccan-style lamb (45,000 won). The latter consisted of saffron rice, grilled lamb and lamb tagine. The lamb tasted more French than North African, being flavored with mild herbs. The Asian rice was fine, although made without cinnamon and cumin.
A plate of pico pasta is a light and tasty combination of mildly spiced beef wrapped in paper thin pasta and pan-fried asparagus stalks wrapped in dried ham, topped with grated parmesan cheese.
Another dish consisted of couscous served in a creamy sauce that contained chunks of lamb and assorted ingredients, from baby carrots to shiitake mushrooms, hazelnuts, chestnuts and olives. It was lean, healthful and delicious, but the lack of traditional herbs made the dish somewhat bland. Various side dishes that complete a Moroccan meal were not included, except for pickles and harissa sauce made without cumin, coriander, cardamom and cloves.
These meat dishes were matched with a bottle of house red wine, the 2002 Le Corti Chianti Classico. The wine was young and strongly tannic. A glass costs 15,000 won, a bottle 60,000 won.
Apart from the rich decor, visitors can engage in two different scenarios: Be a trendsetter on bustling weekend nights by ordering a set of Osetra caviar and a bottle of Dom Perignon for 300,000 won or, on slower weekday or Sunday nights, feel like a sheik reclining on a velvet ottoman and let the chef pamper you with his delicious treats.


Marrakesh
English: Spoken, on the menu.
Tel: (02) 545-9930.
Hours: 6 p.m.-2 a.m. daily.
Location: Inside the Table 2025 building behind the Hard Rock Cafe in Cheongdam-dong.
Parking: Valet.
Dress code: Elegant or smart casual.


by Ines Cho
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