Sunday, March 04, 2012

Moroccan Soup Bar

The Moroccan Soup Bar is a vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne. It was our nephew KJ and his girlfriend Ann who took us there. I had never experienced Moroccan food before, let alone vegetarian, and I was immensely curious and eager. 

It was a small crowded place, with a simple yet pleasant ambience; brightly painted and furnished with an assortment of tables and chairs. It was really quite homely, except perhaps a little too noisy. It is located on 183, St. Georges Road, Fitzroy North in downtown Melbourne. 

I liked the many artifacts on display. I wanted some pictures of them but it was very crowded. When I moved in to take some shots, the lady boss (apparently named Hanna) gave me a "Hey!". I didn't what she meant. Perhaps I was in their way or perhaps they do not encourage photography in the restaurant. 

I didn't see a menu. I don't think they have one. Hanna came over to take our orders. She recommended the banquet. It was a set meal. They had the banquet for AUD20 per head and the banquet extra for an additional AUD5. We opted for the extra. 

I really did not know what exactly we ate. There was various combinations of vegetables, beans, nuts, grains, roots, mushrooms, diary products - all vegan. I cannot provide the names of the dishes - just the visuals. I will however attempt to describe the taste as I remember them.

The dishes came in 3 waves. First, the starters. The main dish of the starters was this combination of yoghurt and hummus. Hummus is a middle-eastern paste of grounded chickpeas, sesame, lemon and garlic in olive oil. Added to the yoghurt and hummus were potato, egg plant, olive, beet, some other un-identified vegetables seasoned with un-identified spices. The taste was a combination of diary sourness and aromatic spices. It was eaten with some pita bread.

Then there was this bowl of beans, peas, corn and other stuffs. 

A small bowl of assorted vegetable with cheese.

Another small bowl of cauliflower and potato.

And a spoonful of I-have-no-idea-what. It looked like sambal but tasted more like a pickle, apparently to be taken in minute amount.

The starters were served together with cups of sweet mint tea. I liked the tea. It had a very pleasant and mild flavor of mint.

The table was then cleared and the entree arrived. Dominating the main meal was this large bowl of baked chickpea and lentils. Above it was a layer of cheese and sprinklings of almonds flakes. It was baked with various spices including some saffron. It was delicious. 

This was a rice dish. I cannot remember what the accompaniment was. I think it was potato and mushroom in a thick and rich sauce. The rice was cooked in a tomato sauce. I liked the rich flavor.

This was a couscous dish. It was the first time I tasted couscous. Couscous is a North African grain - look like rice but taste very differently. The couscous was buried below a rich mixture of potato, carrot, onion, tomato and egg plant. I did not have the presence of mind to take a shot of the couscous below. I did not find the dish exceptional. The couscous was rather insignificant. It did not have any peculiar flavor or texture. 

Another rice dish. I think it was saffron rice. The accompaniment was beans. This dish did not leave much of an impression in my mind. I cannot recall how it tasted. I think I preferred the first rice dish.

Finally, it was a dish of egg plant, rice and sour cream. The egg plant was good but the cream was a little too sour for my liking. I believe we were supposed to mix the egg plant and rice into the sour cream. But we did not. The dish was just so-so.

The 3rd wave of our meal was dessert. There were 2 small plates of sweet Moroccan cakes. I had no idea what they were made of. I was expecting a grander closing to our meal. The cakes were quite mild and were not exceptional. 

Coffee was served from a strange perpendicular kettle into small cups. The waitress warned us that it would be strong. We were just to sip it. But it did not turn out to be that mighty. I had tasted much stronger coffee than this. Still, after a heavy meal, it was nice to have a cup of aromatic coffee.

I do not know why the restaurant is so named, for no soup was served with their "banquet". It would had been nice to try what Moroccan soup to all about. All in all, I enjoyed the meal. It was something new. Some of the dishes were delicious. Some were just so-so. But my wife did not quite like it. The meal was too sourish for her. Indeed, with the yoghurt, sour cream, tomato, etc, the meal was on the sour side. Also, there was a lot of food - all vegan - cooked in manners new and strange to us. At the end of it, I did yearn for some meat.

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