Thursday, March 25, 2010
New Medina restaurant: Najmat Souafine
It's always good to find a new, quality restaurant in the Fez medina. The View from Fez takes a look at Najmat Souafine.
Tucked away in Ziat at 9 Oued Souafine near Riad Mokri, the restaurant has graceful arches inside that make it look like a French cave. In fact, the building was originally a mill with the Oued (stream) Souafine flowing by it, says co-owner Bernard Pelay.
The man behind the cosy and stylish decor is Hassan el Jniouni, who is also the other co-owner of Najmat Souafine (najmat means 'star' in Arabic). Hassan is not only a designer but an accomplished chef. He has designed the menu and his nephew, Mohamed el Jniouni, does the cooking. Hassan explains that the menu is traditional Moroccan, but with an emphasis on fresh, light and non-greasy food.
The View from Fez team was presented with some crudites with a yoghurt dip while deciding what to eat. There's no menu, but the friendly waitress will explain what's on offer and there are two or three choices for first and main courses. We started with a tasty pumpkin soup served with delicious fresh bread. A suprise was an extra course of briouates (b'stilla pastry parcels), one with fish and the other a blander soft cheese and cabbage.
The main course option of fish was pageot, a whole fish rolled in chermoula and grilled, and was perfect. The accompanying vegetable purees were less successful. Our other main course was a coquelet, a miniature chicken, which was well cooked and delicately spiced. It was served with superb cinnamon and raison couscous. All this was followed by fresh orange and strawberries.
The service was efficient and unobtrusive and the atmosphere pleasant. We found that serving the food on unwarmed plates meant that it was not as hot as it could have been. We'd also like to see more ambient lighting such as candles or lanterns, or even dimmer switches.
Lunch at Najmat Souafine is Dh120 and dinner Dh150 per person.