Washington, DC is probably the only place where the northern coast of Africa is located next to China. Actually, I am referring to Marakesh, a Moroccan Restaurant located just outside of Chinatown on New York Avenue in downtown Washington, DC. Visitors to this area will find an exotic treat in an unlikely place if they look hard enough behind the unassuming Arabic green sign above a really huge green door. Nothing else reveals the hidden treasures that await inside.
The first glimpse at the unusual world that awaits begins when visitors knock on the enormous wooden door and a smaller door is opened opens to let you in. I am always reminded of the entrance to the gates of Oz when that happens. Just like Oz, you know you "aren't in Kansas anymore" as you are greeted by the authentically dressed staff, the smell of incense hits your nostrils and the sounds of the fountains perpetually flowing from the colorful walls hits your ears. Fans of the movie "Casablanca" almost expect Humphrey Bogart to walk through the heavy curtains that separate the dining area. Though there is no "Sam" playing the piano, the entertainment is far from disappointing.
After you and your group are seated on the comfy cushions, the evening begins with a ritual washing of hands. Each guest is then handed their very own towel. Trust me, you will definitely need this. The evening proceeds through seven delightful courses beginning with the bread basket and ending with fresh fruit and hot mint tea poured from enormous heights into tiny cups - an entertaining feat in itself. In between are wonderful vegetable salads, unique meat dishes, couscous and my personal favorite B'Stella a chicken and egg pastry covered in powdered sugar. All except the couscous are served in family style tradition. In other words, everything is eaten with your hands from a large plate shared with your group - a truly bonding experience.
Some where about half way through the meal, the lights are dimmed and the staff swings into a flurry of activity as a stage is created right before your eyes in the middle of the dining room. A belly dancer is escorted to her rightful place on center stage and a show guaranteed to delight and amaze begins. The things this lady does with a sword have to be seen to be believed. Between the music, the costume and the graceful dancing, the audience is totally captivated. Like so many things in life, the experience ends all too soon. But only after all who are celebrating an anniversary or birthday are recognized and rewarded with special treats.
Marakesh will quickly become a favorite that you will want to visit again and again. It is the perfect place to celebrate with family and friends, have an intimate meal with your partner or introduce to guests visiting from out of town. By the way, Marakesh has been awarded the "hard to please teenager seal of approval" from my son and his friends. Each time you visit, you will discover something new. So, if you are craving an evening of unique entertainment and authentically prepared Moroccan food but don't want to actually leave the country, Marakesh Restaurant is the perfect place for you.
Reservations are required. Call (202)393-9393
Cash or Check only - no credit cards
For more information visit: http://www.marrakeshwashington.com/
Public Transportation - Metro (recommended):
Gallery Place/China Town Metro Station - 7th Street Exit, turn right on 7th St to New York Avenue, turn right, restaurant is on the left side.
Rt. 66 (becomes Constitution Ave), turn left to 6th St, NW, turn left on New York Avenue, the building is on the right side.