A traditional setting fails to disguise run-of-the-mill cuisine
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Time Out Says

Great things, we’re told, are on the horizon for Festival City. The sprawling shopping complex is soon to be endowed with a number of glittering new department stores and high-end restaurants. But until this cultural and culinary evolution occurs, we must content ourselves with more conventional offerings, such as Tanjia.

Perched on the peripheral of the mall, next to the excitable flashes of the Festival City fairground, Tanjia appears to have secured a decent waterside spot on Marina Promenade. But, with the weather as it is, I bypassed the small al-fresco dining area in favour of a seat inside. The sweet smell of shisha that greeted me as I entered was a sensory prelude to Tanjia’s over-the-top decor – the restaurant is so cluttered with mosaic furniture, lamps, brocades, tea sets, and vases that it could easily double as a furniture showroom. Maybe it does. I didn’t ask.

My attention returned to food as a basket of warm bread, accompanied by olives and some violent red chilli paste, arrived at the table. The menu, unsurprisingly, comprised classic Moroccan fare. I ordered the zaalouk, a dish of puréed aubergine and tomato, which arrived frighteningly quickly. For want of a better word, it was fine – it was… as it should be. I could just about make out the taste of coriander and harmoula marinade, though both were dulled by the fact that the dish had sat out for too long. With hindsight, I think I was just grateful that it arrived in time to temper the chilli paste that I’d wolfed down rather too enthusiastically.

The lamb tagine, much like the zaalouk that preceded it, arrived immediately, served bubbling in a traditional tangia pot. But authenticity can be a double-edged sword. While the dish looked impressive enough, it consisted solely of cheap meat. I’m all for a traditional dining experience, but at Dhs70, more quality cuts would have been welcome. Still, the meat was tender, easily falling away from the bone and combining well with the sweet, chewy flesh of the prunes and the crunch of sesame seeds and fried almonds. The latter ingredient was the only redeeming aspect of the side plate of couscous, but still failed to hide the fact that this too had obviously been left standing for longer than it should.

Like the lamb tagine and the zaalouk before it, the restaurant as a whole is okay. It’s relatively well priced, and it’s in a nice enough location. Under any other circumstances, I’d feel obliged to conjure a more imaginative adjective than ‘okay’, but then the imagination that has been put into the food at Tanjia doesn’t warrant an overly imaginative response.

The bill (for one)
1x Orange juice
1x Zaalouk salad Dhs20
1x Tagine Dhs70
1x Steamed couscous Dhs15
Total (excluding service) Dhs123

By Oliver Robinson  | 06 Sep 2010

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