The scents will draw you in, the tastes will make you stay.
Locals and tourists alike wandering by the window of Moroccan restaurant Moltaqa peered inside the window at the extravagant food spread we had on the table.
Mimo Bucko had meticulously crafted the interior design for the restaurant. He shares that his vision to focus on the reflection of shadow and light, to have the two elements work together to create a unique dining atmosphere.
Vibrant, patterned fabrics are used for the upholstery of the bar stools and booth seating. Down to the cookware used in the kitchen, every detail illustrates rich Moroccan taste and heritage.
We could hardly contain our excitement as we waited for the first dishes. We started with a lovely prawn cocktail, a delicious, mouth-watering tangy sauce to kickstart our appetites. The prawn cocktail is presented with a cumin salt rim, so when you reach for a prawn you will taste all the flavors of the sauce and spices.
Two refreshing salads were up next, each with its choice of fruit, one orange and one with thinly-chopped apples, to ensure we got our fill our healthy greens prior to the feast.
There are also a variety of salad options, the Barba-Orange Beet Salad features juicy orange slices with small cheese cubes on a bed of leafy greens, and another simple and tasty option mixes crunchy apple with arugula and vinaigrette.
We were then served hot beverages to warm our stomachs, a traditional Moroccan mint tea that was both earthy and sweet. As we consumed the drinks, passerby observed the growing number of dishes in front of us and even ventured in to find out more about the restaurant.
Mimo brought over two piping hot pots and placed them on the table. One covered by a bright blue lid and another with a bright red lid. As soon as the lids were removed, delicious aromas filled the room. In the red pot was the signature Lamb Shank Tagine; in the blue pot was Chicken Tagine, with ocean wise fish braised in a chermoula sauce.
Mimo shared with us that all meat and cooking in the restaurant is halal, and they do not use oil or butter. The halal lamb merguez is done by an experienced Algerian butcher using Moroccan spices, with 3 fresh deliveries per week so the meat is never frozen.
The meat is then braised for long hours, tagine steamed in its own juices. The iconic Lamb Shank dish has a specialty ras el honout spice mix using 32 spices and dried apricots. We recommend you savor each bite to appreciate the effort required to prepare these traditional dishes (and maybe even identify some of the spices used!) For use for dipping with the sauces, you also have bread made by a Moroccan baker name Abdoul, delivered in small batches to the restaurant.
While the Lamb Shank Tagine is a popular dish, we found our forks gravitating again (and again) towards the Chicken Tagine. Its use of preserved lemons brings out a zest in the sauce, and the Tagine cooking method resulted in juicy, tender chicken you could cut with a fork.
The baker who makes the traditional Moroccan bread also prepares a citrus-y orange cheesecake for the restaurant, a lovely flavour for those who like tarty desserts.
We want to thank Moltaqa for treating us such an unbelievable Moroccan feast, complete with multiple appetizers to whet our appetite and signature entrees highlighting the chef's expert use of Moroccan spices and traditional cooking techniques.
We should also note that this tasty goodness is also available to Vegetarians, as Moltaqa serves vegetarian dishes as well. No matter what you choose, you always have the thoughtfully curated wine list featuring Mediterranean and BC wines to take your feast at Moltaqa to the next level. Other refreshment alternatives include beer on tap, Kombucha on tap and detoxing smoothies (in other words, Moltaqa has everything and anything you will want!)
At Moltaqa, you dine with all your sense, the elegant and tasteful decor designed by Mimo and imported from Marrakech, the delicious aromas wafting from the kitchen and spilling out onto the street, and the intimate dining spaces where one can relax and catch up with friends and family. If you haven't set foot in this restaurant yet, then you have yet to discover the best Moroccan food in Vancouver.
51 W Hastings St, Vancouver,
Photos: Florence Leung