I have long enjoyed the cuisine of Hassan and Raja Ziadi at Moroccan Flavors, the little counter-service cafe they operate inside the Midtown Global Market. But their ready-to-eat menu is limited, and I always wondered what the Ziadis could come up with if I gave them carte blanche and a little advance notice.
So that is what I did last weekend. I called them Friday evening, and told Hassan that I wanted to order a takeout dinner for three for Sunday night. I did specify that we wanted seafood, and to please include their salad sampler as part of the dinner.
I didn’t quite know what to expect when I arrived at MGM last evening, but what we got was spectacular. The salad sampler was a rainbow of colors and flavors: smoky pureed eggplant; grated carrots with cinnamon and currants; marinated beets, cucumber salad, seasoned cauliflower, green olives and a salad of tomatoes and cucumber.
The salads were mostly familiar, but the main courses were all new to me: shrimp sauteed with hot red, green and gold peppers; savory minced sardine boulettes with preserved lemon and bay leaves; lobster claws over diced potatoes, and pan-fried fillets of merlon (whiting) with slices of fresh lemon.
Hassan loaded all these dishes into a big cardboard box, along with sides of cabbage, carrots and currants; couscous, seasoned rice, and a cheese course of local blue and cheddar cheeses accompanied by toasted almonds, apricots and prunes and a fresh baguette from the New French bakery. For dessert, marinated sliced oranges scented with rosewater, and little triangles of filo filled with ground almonds.
As soon as I got home, Carol transferred my cargo from their utilitarian black plastic takeout containers to our nicest serving dishes, and we enjoyed one of the most memorable dinners I have had in a very long time.
The quality of the cuisine was impressive, but the quantity was staggering. I had requested dinner for three, but each of the four entrees was easily enough as a main course for two or three, all by itself.
The Ziadis proposed to charge me $100 for this feast, but I insisted that they charge me the same that they would charge any other customer for this quantity of food. They raised the price to $150, which is still a bargain, given the quality and quantity of food they prepared. If I ordered the same dinner again, I would serve it at a dinner party for at least six, or maybe eight – perhaps with an extra order of rice or couscous.
But you don’t have to spend nearly this much to enjoy the Ziadis’ Moroccan cuisine. All of the beef, chicken and vegetarian couscous and tagine entrees on their regular menu are under $10, and they have now added entrees of shrimp ($11.95) and lamb shank ($11.95). You can also special order any of the dishes that we enjoyed, with a few days notice.
Open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.