It seems every restaurant in Marrakech has the same two traditional Moroccan staples on the menu: tagine and couscous. Staying in the country for a month, one can grow tired of this clay pot conundrum, and that is why Nomad is a welcome respite.
Nomad, a hidden, fine dining fortress within the bustling medina, says its aim is to “evolve Moroccan cuisine through the cross-pollination of culinary cultures.” What was once an old carpet store is now a four-story walkup restaurant with a spacious rooftop terrace offering a view of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains.
The restaurant focuses on local, seasonal ingredients and also runs a “nomadic chefs program,” offering chefs from around the world a chance to take over the restaurant’s bottom-floor kitchen for anywhere from one day to one month.
The following is a recap of quite a memorable meal.
Modern Tunisian Brik: Moroccan thin pastry filled with spiced aged beef, fresh egg, turnip purée and green harissa.
This little brik of a gem (brik is a traditional Tunisian dish) is made with a crowd-pleasing crispy outside shell, serving as a contrast to its salty, soft, shredded beef inside. This dish reminded me of a Moroccan pot pie, if there ever was such a thing. It’s also similar to another of the country’s food staples: pastilla.
Served on a bed of lightly oiled, fresh spinach and roasted almond slivers, what is usually overlooked as garnish or unnecessary food fuss turned out to be a tremendous complement to the dish. Well played, Nomad.
Nomad Couscous: Slowly braised, preserved lemon- and spice-infused beef over fresh seasonal vegetables on a bed of couscous.
This dish beat each of the other three entrées as the absolute best. Why? The most tender, salted beef with the right amount of fat; the type of beef that requires almost no chewing, the slick, seasoned shreds really do melt in your mouth. This is the type of beef that should be eaten slowly and cherished. It’s extremely soft, delicate and deserves appreciation.
The perfectly roasted vegetables and pearly couscous alone would have been a blog-worthy meal. Add the beef and this becomes a meal you call home about. This is the most comforting meal I’ve had since leaving the states five months ago. I couldn’t stop eating it. When I wasn’t eating it, I was staring at it. That’s how good it was.
Vegetarian Plate: Chickpea salad, tzatziki, avocado and barley with celery and sesame seeds.
We ordered this dish off a recommendation from a friend, and we were glad we did. What presents itself and unassuming and bland on the menu was actually a favorite dish of one of the diners at the table (beating out the aforementioned Nomad Couscous). It’s a light, clean plate that delivered freshness to our salted and fat-laden palettes. This is a perfect dish for those who have reached their limit of tagine and couscous in this North African oasis.
Calamari from Agadir: Calamari in a cumin-infused anchovy, ginger and harissa sauce, served with braised fennel.
The star of this dish was the hot, diced tomato accompaniment. The tender tomatoes were remarkably fresh considering they are completely out of season during the time we visited (January). The calamari and braised fennel were not completely noteworthy, but not horrible by any means.
Amlou: Almond, argan oil and honey ice cream.
Hibiscus flower, vanilla and mint.
I’ve declared over and over again to anyone who will listen that Amlou is the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted in my life. It’s first bite is stunning; it left us speechless, eyes wide. It is gentle, velvety with a smooth aftertaste. The argan oil is what sets this ice cream apart in terms of silkiness. Every ice cream should use it. Unfortunately, the pink hibiscus dessert didn’t stand a chance when paired with the awe-inspiring Amlou.