Moroccan tea, I’ve learned is good for any sort of weather. Even on a warm, sticky day in Singapore – and in a cocktail and tapas bar nonetheless – the soothing liquid, steeped in tradition and warmth, was served throughout the dining experience making me feel drift a little away from Singapore (and my responsibilities) that afternoon.
There were also many other things I learned that afternoon at Tajine, a Moroccan tapas and cocktail restaurant bar, about flaky pastries that straddle the sweet and savory territory and how Moroccan salads are never raw – but that’s for us to explore later.
Less souk and more cozy riad, dining in Tajine feels like you got invited to a homecooked meal – and isn’t that the best feeling?
Feeling like an honored guest seated in the plush blue seats, the meal starts with some hot bread and salad. There’s one thing to know about Moroccan cuisine – salads are usually cooked and even dips are considered as a salad. Tajine’s mixed platter (S$58) comes with six small salad bowls for sharing and baskets of warm pita and batbout, a fire-grilled traditional Moroccan bread.
Beyond the more familiar offerings like hummus (Bessara), explore the other vibrant salads like Chlada, a chilled and refreshing lentil salad with cucumber and orange blossom water and Khizou Mchermel which is made of cooked carrots and preserved lemons.
When the dips are done, it’s time for the serious snacks: the pastries and keftas.
I reach out for the Briouates (S$19 for 3) which look like your regular triangle samosas but filled with Atlantic sardines and tastes best when dipped into Muhammara sauce. More snacking plates available at Tajine are the black angus minced beef Keftas and lamb cromesquis (a type of croquette) – both come with their own complementary dipping sauces.
One of the highlights in this segment is the spinach and artichoke pastillas (S$58). Here, sweet and savory flavors clash – in a good way – when spinach, artichoke, whipped ricotta, chickpeas, spices are wrapped in thin, flaky filo pastry and sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. In other words, it was Christmas in the mouth to me.
But when you come to a restaurant called Tajine, then the same-named dish is something you must try. Unsurprisingly, tajine at Tajine is a remarkable experience. The vessel designed to retain and circulate heat, cradles the ingredients lovingly – in this case, a milk-fed veal shank (S$98) with bone marrow and even more surprises thrown in like prunes, apricots, almonds, saffron. The meat becomes tender, the vegetables release their essence, and the spices infuse every morsel with incredible flavor.
The Couscous Royal (S$48 per person) is also one of the stars of the Tajine menu. The (also) tajine dish is a moreish mix is couscous with lamb merguez, lamb chops, chicken, onions and is served with a bright and spicy harissa sauce for that extra kick – along with some silky lamb and chicken broth to pour over the dish.
Founder Olivier Bendel comes around to check on our progress while saying jokingly, “If this is not finished, I’ll be angry.” While he plays the gracious host and even having a hand pouring the sweet mint tea, he also explains that it is Chef Remy Carmignani who is behind the menu, painstakingly creating every part of each dish, from the sauces to the dessert biscuits.
While sharing might be a theme throughout the meal, it certainly was not the case for dessert and drinks. The sweet ending to the dining experience was something to savor for ourselves. Whether it was the Riz Au Lait (almond milk and orange blossom rice pudding) or a glass of Sumactini (with sumac-infused vodka, pomegranate, elderflower and pink grapefruit), we left Tajine perfectly full with some cloudy recollection that we might’ve stepped out from Singapore for a bit.
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