Al Fassia in the Gueliz area of Marrakech is consistently ranked by most critics as one of the top restaurants in Marrakech, Morocco. The restaurant is owned by the Chab family, whose female members all seem to play a part in the restaurants operations. Before going into the food and setting, I have to mention that the bickering among the family members – everyone from the chef to the hostess – makes its way to the tables. While my waitress put on a smile everytime she came to the table, the hostess was a nightmare and we could hear constant whining throughout our meal coming from all over the restaurant. Bitchy is as much as a part of the service here as the menu.
With that said, everything else was excellent. The dining room has two parts: half in a bright atrium with natural light and half in darker rooms with low lying couches and chairs, but more importantly, Al Fassia is about as good as traditional Moroccan food gets. The dishes are refined and eye friendly. The ladies indeed have a sweet tooth, as everyone in Morocco seems to, and a good part of the dishes lean toward the sugary side. TheirPigeon Pastilla – yes, pigeon is a staple in Morocco – is perhaps one of the best pastillas in Marrakech. The round pastry is stuffed with shredded pigeon meat that’s mixed with pistachios and almonds, then topped with powdered cinnamon and sugar.
Their 13 tagines come out boiling. My lamb tagine with carmelized onions was spot on. Everything was fresh, cooked precisely to where the lamb fell off the bone, and I wouldn’t have been able to finish even without the heaping pile of couscous that came with the dish. Our mixed skewers (sausage, chicken, lamb) over yellow rice did not disappoint either.
Some specialty dishes, such as dalaa mbakhra (steamed lamb shoulder) and chara medfouna (steamed vermicelli garnished with pigeon) need to be ordered ahead.
The wine list is small but has a good variety. Try the Moroccan made wines out of Meknes for the best value, but if you are picky there is a smattering of French options.
Can bitchy ruin a restaurant? Maybe. Personally, I can deal with it for a Moroccan meal like this.
55 Boulevard Zerktouni
Gueliz, Marrakech, Morocco
Hours: Daily noon-2:30pm and 7:30-11pm
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.