906 Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78701
Wednesday started my week of serial dating – lunch date Wednesday, 2 dates Friday, a date Saturday, a date Sunday, a date Tuesday, and then one more on Wednesday. If it weren’t for my crackberry, I’d have problems keeping up with all of them. Needless to say, I’ve been eating out a lot lately. My Tuesday lunch date was at Cosi, which I’ve already reviewed, my Thursday date was just drinks at Trudy’s (and the date went pretty horribly anyway, but that’s what I get for going on a blind date with someone who hangs out with 65 year old women). Which brings us to Friday. The first date was marathon wine drinking at my favorite wine bar, Cork & Co, with a funny and dynamic (though slightly workaholic) software engineer. The second date, however, is the focus of this review.
I met up with Bachelor #2 Friday evening at Marakesh, a little middle eastern restaurant on Congress. We were seated promptly at one of the few empty tables. The place was packed with people from all walks of life, singles, people on dates (like us), and even a few families. The place isn’t large, maybe 15-20 tables and the décor is typical Congress ave restaurant. Brick walls, worn hard wood floors and the slightly musty scent of a well aged building. The smell of the building mixed wonderfully with the smell of the middle eastern food to produce a great homey feel that made me immediately at ease. The smell made my mouth instantly water, and after 2 bottles of wine, I was starving!
I perused the menu and noticed the typical middle eastern fare: shwarma, gyros, falafel, etc. More Greek or Turkish than Moroccan, but eh, this is Texas, you can’t expect to go to a traditional Moroccan restaurant in central Texas. We ordered an appetizer and two entrees, and to be honest, I don’t remember what any of them were. Between the alcohol and the TOTALLY unremarkable middle eastern food, I seriously don’t remember what we ate. I totally don't remember the appetizer. I remember it was meaty and tasteless. I really don't remember what Bachelor #2 ordered. I think it involved chicken, but I am at a loss as to what it was. I THINK I ordered kibbeh, mostly because its usually what I like to order at new middle eastern restaurants. Its considered sort of the meatloaf of middle eastern food and you can generally gage how good a restaurant is by their kibbeh. Its kind of like in the US, if you can't cook meatloaf right, you can't cook anything right. However, Marakesh's fried bulgar/lamb was so unremarkable I don’t remember if that’s truly what I ate. It wasn’t badly prepared, rancid, or anything too offensive, but it was just boring boring food. I do remember my entree came with hummus and pilaf, and I remember enjoying both. The hummus was pretty tasty, having a sharp dill tang and the pilaf was plain but turned into a nice hummus delivery system.
The only think remarkable was the halva, the dessert we ordered, and that’s because it was remarkably bad. I’ve come to find out that the halva I had eaten before is semolina halva and more resembles a thick polenta textured pudding. But after doing some research, I’ve discovered halva can resemble anything depending on what country you’re in. In fact, it means dessert (or more specifically “sweets”) in several different languages. This halva was more (as I’ve come to find out) Egyptian style halva, which resembles a big square hunk of candy. It had a nice melt-in-your-mouth texture, but it was soooo over-sweet and the bitter taste of cardamon overpowered all the other flavors that I couldn’t take more than a couple of bites. The waitress who was a little off to begin with noticed we hadn’t eaten it and chose to tell me while I was standing in line at the bathroom that she’d taken it off the bill. You know there are times when you talk to strangers, and times you don’t, and standing in line for the bathroom is one of those times you don’t. :P
Bachelor #2 and I continued on to The Hideout for a Ladies of Comedy improve show. The Hideout is a cute little coffee shop/improve theater. A fun date for all you single people if you’re looking for interesting things to do (like you have to look that far in Austin, but hey, I thought I’d point it out). The comedy show was.. interesting.. to say the least. There were moments of sheer brilliance and moments that were less than brilliant (including the sketch where a woman gives birth to her food baby - a baby tied to a pizza - and procedes to eat it.. a little disturbing).
Bottom Line: Bland, uninteresting, just plain forgettable middle eastern food