Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Benevolent King

I was very sad to hear when Water Street closed and I knew the next place would have big shoes to fill. Well, Ben Poremba had no problem filling the space and adding to the eclectic list of restaurants in downtown Maplewood.

I could have used more instruction from our waiter and I actually tried to listen to another server to learn more about the dishes since the menu doesn't have too much detail. That other server saw us oogling her tray and even stopped to inform us of what was being delivered. And it wasn't uncommon for other tables to lean over to check out what was just put down.

Luckily, our guesses worked out in our favor and everything was delicious, but a Moroccan-themed restaurant is definitely for the adventurous.

Before we get to the menu, even if you don't like Moroccan food, just go and get a cocktail from Tony Saputo. Patience tried the Amir and Prince of The Believers, while I kept it light with the house sangria. There is a long list and they are quite complex and delicious.


Since the menu changes daily, there is not much posted on their website so I just happened to spill some sauce on a menu and asked to bring it home with me to add to my collection. But I have a feeling they're going to keep a large selection of snacks and small plates, which you could easily make a meal from. There may not be too many dinner entrees, but I still struggled to pick one out.

June Menu
Patience and I like to order (almost) the whole menu when we try new places and I would definitely recommend trying a couple of things from each section. The snacks and the small plates really weren't that different since there was a lot of dips.

From the "Snack" section, I let Patience choose since I wasn't sure of the M'Samen or the Briouat. She ordered the items that were familiar: Fresh Farmer's cheese, which was served with several crudites and Split Pea Falafel that came with a tahini dip.

Fresh Farmer's Cheese (jben)

Split Pea Falafel with tahini
Since the tahini dip was a little spicy, I opted for putting everything in the creamy cheese dip instead!

I had just as much trouble picking out dishes in the "Salatim" section (I assume it means small plates?), but luckily they are priced at 3 for $20 or 5 for $30.

Our favorite was the Ikra, a Balkan caviar dip with pickled onions.

Ikra (tarama): Balkan caviar dip, pickled onion
The Taztziki was a very pretty dish with thinly sliced cucumbers. Since the rest of the dishes were finger foods, I just picked up the cucumbers with my hands too. hehehe

Tzatziki: Greek yogurt, cucumbers, dill, and honey
I did use a fork for the Roasted Peppers, which probably would have made a good side dish with an entree.

Roasted Peppers Mechouia
We actually were starting to slow down and decided to save the rest of the dips to take home as well as ordering two more pieces of the pita bread. Skip the Hearth Bread on the menu and just order more of these if you need more for your dips! They only charged us $1 each and were one of my favorite things that's not even listed on the menu!

For our main course, Patience went old school and got the Grilled Sea Scallops. There were only two, but they were large and split in half so we could easily share.

Grilled Sea Scallops
I even gave Patience one of my Lamb Meatballs, which were set in a smoked tomato sauce. I used the bread on the side to mop of alllll the sauce.

Lamb Meatballs, smoked tomato sauce, ras al hanout
And you probably won't be surprised that we ordered dessert...two of them...flan-like cake for Patience, while I ordered the custard.

Creme Caramel, orange blossom
Malabi: milk custard, rose water, cherry, halva
The custard reminded me a lot of the dessert from Vicia, beautifully decorated, and I really enjoyed the cherry flavor. (Even though chocolate would have been the perfect touch. Do they have chocolate in Morocco? I'll have to ask Ben next time I see him.)


The Benevolent King =

Photos by Patience Scanlon

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