If you don’t have the time to travel to Morocco, then finding a restaurant that serves Moroccan food is the next best thing. In Orange County, there are not a lot of restaurants that serve only Moroccan cuisine, but there are a great deal that serve Mediterranean cuisine, usually including Moroccan on the menu. And if you’re lucky, you might get to see some belly dancing to accompany your dining experience.
Mamounia has been in business since 1999. This Moroccan restaurant serves a true culinary delight in the genuine traditional culture, which is one of the reasons why all of the chefs are Moroccan women. Salads are either raw or cooked, served hot or cold, and include eggplant, zaalouk and taktouka, a mixture of tomatoes, green peppers, garlic and spices. Couscous, an old delicacy of Berber origin, is served with the main meal which usually ends with a sweet cup of mint tea. The restaurant also has traditional Moroccan desserts for you to enjoy the sweets of the country. Be sure to stay for the entertainment of traditional belly dancing.
At this family restaurant, Mama does the cooking, complimentary toasted pita bread, hummus and olives are served as appetizers, and the usual Moroccan mint tea ends the meal. Moroccan entrees include couscous, lamb or chicken and freshly-baked Moroccan bread, reasonably priced between $20 to $25. Lamb stew served with prunes and almonds is $15 and filo stuffed with white fish, shrimp and vermicelli is only $18. Sit-down dining can be indoors or outdoors, but remember to bring your dollar bills for tipping the belly dancer.
Located at the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach just across from the pier, Zimzala Restaurant serves California beach cuisine with many Moroccan dishes on its menu. Such typical offerings include hummus, black truffle risotto and flatbreads. Try the hummus and pita chips for a quick bite at $6 or the Zimzala platter with hummus, faro salad, olive tapenade couscous salad and marinated mozzarella tomato salad at $14. The dinner menu has a unique Irish organic salmon that comes with tarragon-scented pearl couscous and baby heirloom tomato samba, at only $25.
Marrakesh serves authentic Moroccan cuisine with fresh-baked bread and three traditional Moroccan salads – one with marinated eggplant, one with tomatoes and cucumbers and the third with spiced carrots. The Bastilla filo dough is a delicious dish packed with chicken, almonds and eggs then baked and covered with sugar and cinnamon. One of the more traditional dishes of Morocco that serves as a Marrakesh staple is a bed of steamed wheat with tender lamb or chicken, vegetables and raisins. Diners can choose either the a la carte menu at $18.50 or the complete fixed dinner at $26.95, both are excellent prices for all of the food that is included. On Mondays, there is a special menu at the Costa Mesa restaurant. Check it out to see if you’d like to plan your visit accordingly.
Sahara Falafel is an oasis for Middle Eastern cuisine. As a small mom-and-pop, quick-bite canteen, it is a big attraction for hummus and pita sandwiches stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes and tahini. The beef and chicken shawarma platters and kebabs come in hefty portions with tahini and garlic sauce on the side. Also, if falafel is your favorite, order up because Sahara’s namesake is credited to their quality. Be prepared to wait as the food is prepared to order, even though the meat is cooking on the spit.
Mona Graham is a freelance writer, writing for Examiner.com. Mona has lived in Orange County since 1958 and has a great familiarity with the area. Her hobbies are travelling, writing and photography. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.