Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dinner and belly dancing with "Jasmine"

My girlfriend wanted to treat us to a special dinner during our May trip to Vegas, and we decided Thursday night would be the night to dine at Marrakech.

We don't do many fancy dinners during our trips to Vegas. Our nice dinner use to be at The Flame inside El Cortez, and that's because I always had a discount coupon for it. Now that The Flame is gone, we don't have a go-to restaurant, and in searching for interesting places that weren't overhyped celebrity chef restaurants on the strip, my girlfriend found Marrakech.

I vaguely knew of this place. Years ago I knew a woman who had worked there, as a belly dancer. I didn't know where the place was, or much else about it, and never in my wildest dreams did I expect I'd wind up dining there. Perhaps there's more than one Mediterranean restaurant featuring belly dancers in the Vegas area, but I doubt it. 

Marrakech is quite an experience. It's located in a strip mall north of Flamingo on Paradise Road. It's very unassuming from the outside. 

But once you step inside reminders of Sin City are nowhere to be found. It seems rather dark inside, and the dining room area is highly decorated. The dining room is designed to look like the inside of a Moroccan tent, according to the Marrakech website, and I'd say they nailed it. Candles illuminate the dining area, and although it seems rather dark when you first enter, your eyes will eventually adjust to it. 

There's no lunch menu at Marrakech, it's dinner only, and it's a prixe fixe menu. Sure, you can substitute chicken for beef along the way, and they offer vegetarian options, but you eat what they make for you, and you will like it! 

It's a $50 dinner and you have little choice in the matter. If you're a red meat and potato gal, you probably shouldn't dine at Marrakech. But if you enjoy the Mediterranean flavor, you'll love Marrakech.

The dinner includes a sauteed shrimp appetizer that was delicious, a lentil and rice soup that was tasty and a vegetable and dip tray that I enjoyed, and I'm not the biggest fan of raw vegetables. Dipping sauces, be it ranch dressing or hummus – the latter being part of the Marrakech offering – go a long way toward my enjoyment of the uncooked vegetable. 

We were also served a beef kabob and the "royal Moroccan couscous platter with djaj (chicken)." Both were outstanding. Many of the offerings are eaten with your hands. I don't recall if they gave us a spoon for the soup, but I do recall they gave us forks to eat our royal chicken platter.

By the time you've been served the five courses, and eaten your share of bread, you've had a healthy meal. They wrap it all up with a Moroccan pastry stuffed with bananas, nuts and chocolate. 

We skipped the pricey beer, wine and cocktail offerings, but that didn't diminish the experience. The service staff was prompt at filling our water glasses and great all around. 

We dined early in the evening, and the place was far from full. We were seated next to a trio, and could see one other group from our semi-private corner. There might have been another group seated in an area we couldn't see, but that was about it during our visit. And as promised, the restaurant featured a belly dancer that would perform intermittently throughout the evening, sometimes near our table.

The first time she came to our area she beckoned one of us to get up and dance with her. My girlfriend was quick to be a stick in the mud, so I deemed it necessary to get up and be a good sport. Although it's a bit dark in the dining room, my girlfriend managed to get a decent picture of me attempting to mimic the dance moves of the belly dancer. And she posted it on her Facebook page. Her sister showed the picture to her 5-year-old niece who seemed to think I was belly dancing with the Disney princess "Jasmine." 

Marrakech has been around since 1979, according to its website, and they promise a feast for your senses. While it's not a cheap date night dinner, it's a great experience, and well done within the confines of a Paradise Road strip mall. I won't be making a return visit later this month, but I have no doubt I'll be back some day. 

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