Moroccan café in International City 6 Reviews
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I don’t know why, but for whatever reason most of Dubai’s best Moroccan food is to be found in hotels – and that means it’s often pricey. So the prospect of a cheap, cheerful and independent Moroccan meal in the outskirts of International City was, well, refreshing. And when my date and I pulled up to Merci, we couldn’t help but be endeared by the relaxed vibe –modestly decorated with a handful of Moroccan lamps – and by the charmingly welcoming owner who personally took our order. The restaurant also specialises in Mediterranean fare (hence its seemingly incongruous name), but we were hankering for lamb and couscous, so we decided to stick to the North African specials.
The menu read extremely well, though we approached it with a hint of trepidation. Given how inexpensive the food was, the quality could have gone either way – though a tasting plate starter suggested we were in for a surprisingly good feast. An adept arancini (Sicilian fried rice balls) – crispy and tender – demonstrated that the kitchen could handle European food, and some woodsy zaalouk (Morocco’s answer to baba ganoush) hinted that overall we were in good hands. However my date and I were quickly let down by some miniature lamb skewers that, though juicy, were tough and shrunken. An order of calamari in a spicy tomato sauce was also a bit of a disappointment, too. The squid was chewy and similarly diminutive. However, the sauce was pleasantly toasty, leading me to deduce that the ingredients – not the kitchen staff – were the ones letting down the meal.
I started to worry about the starring role the lamb would be playing in my companion’s tagine. Thankfully, when the dish came out, the meat was spoonably tender, even if it was a tad anaemic. Still, the classic combination of prunes, almonds and honey made for a predictably winning dish. I had also feared the calamari’s cameo in my seafood bastilla and, while the squid was only marginally less chewy than before, the interior was smooth in texture and offered a hint of spice that was tantalising without being overpowering. Meanwhile, the filo shell was crisply brown. It was a satisfying, if filling, dish and was well priced for the size. Dessert came in the form of freshly fried pastries filled with a thick, fudge-like date mince. It was perhaps a bit of a rich an ending for a meal that was so heavy.
There were a handful of people eating in the restaurant, and a few more checking the internet over biscuits and mint tea. Even if Merci wasn’t the best Moroccan restaurant in Dubai, it was well set up for a gentle hangout spot where one could rely on an inexpensive and pleasant-enough meal.
The bill (for two)
2x Small bottles of Masafi water Dhs8
1x Tasting plate Dhs25
1x Calamari Dhs20
1x Lamb tagine Dhs35
1x Seafood bastilla Dhs35
1x Dessert plate Dhs10
Total (excluding service) Dhs133
Time Out Dubai,
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