We continue our walk around World Showcase at Epcot with a review of Restaurant Marrakesh, the unheralded table service eatery in the back of the Morocco Pavilion.
For a much broader look at what’s happening around Morocco, including a look at the cultural exhibit, menus, and merchandise, see this post. If you missed Japan, here’s a fresh review of Teppan Edo, along with a look inside Mitsukoshi Department Store here. A general update of everything else going on around the Japan Pavilion, including the construction of a new restaurant, is available in this post.
Restaurant Marrakesh is my second favorite Epcot restaurant to visit for lunch when I’m in the mood to sit down and relax a bit, don’t have a reservation, and don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of money on a forgettable meal. Below is look at both the lunch and dinner menus – I’ve added the dinner price next to the lunch price for the sake of comparison:
The lunch and dinner menus are similar, making an afternoon meal a more economical option in most situations. If you’re looking at ordering something like the Chicken Couscous and Shish Kebab, then you’d “save” $15 simply by making a reservation for no later than 3:15pm when lunch seatings end.
Marrakesh is also home to one of the best values at Epcot in the Chef’s Lunch Special, which we’ll be taking a closer look at during this review. That’s a full three-course meal for $20 or about the same amount of money that you’d pay for a Shawarma Platter and Baklava at Tangierine Cafe, the Pavilion’s quick service. A lot of restaurant’s don’t even serve a single entree for $20 or less anymore.
Marrakesh offers a flip book full of pictures of many of the restaurant’s dishes, since they may “feel” a little out there based on their descriptions.
I’m not necessarily sure it’s doing them any favors.
On the other hand, here’s how my picture of the same couscous dish came out a couple of visits ago.
Other pictures are not terribly accurate.
For example, the Shish Kebab is served with rice rather than what looks like hummus and crispy bread.
Then again, sometimes I wonder why I even bother actually doing the things that I review when I could save the money, move to Texas, and summarize Yelp for a living.
But here we are.
Even if I could probably just photoshop out the words and try to pawn these pictures of pictures off as my meal here.
Here’s a look at the drink menu:
The cocktails at Marrakesh are typically on the light and fruity side, which is to say that there’s rarely much alcohol involved. That should be made all the more clear by the fact that they’re charging 13 bucks for a shot of Bailey’s.
On the plus side, for just four more dollars, you can take home one of these souvenir glasses that still say “Epcot Center” on them. I’m assuming the restaurant purchased a few dozen of these back in 1984 and they’re still trying to move them. This is the $11 “Marrakesh Express – Don Q Coconut Rum, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice, topped with Coruba Dark Rum.” The flavor is just about what you would expect given the ingredient list – the tropical juices do a nice job of masking the alcohol, making for a refreshing drink that tastes largely of pineapple juice.
And the $11 “Sahara Splash – Russian Standard Vodka, Midori, Cranberry Juice topped with Arrow Peach Schnapps” showing the other side of the souvenir cup with the proud Restaurant Marrakesh logo. I’d strongly consider adding the hurricane-esque glass to your order given the four dollar cost. This drink tastes largely of cranberry juice with just a hint of peach.
This souvenir coffee cup is also available for the same money.
A word about the restaurant itself…
According to Disney, “stained-glass chandeliers bathe diners in a warm, dim glow, all while intricate tile mosaics evoke timeless majesty.”
As beautiful as the restaurant is, it does “feel” a little underwhelming in person, I think.
I’m not sure if that’s due to the amount of yellow lighting, the fact that it’s windowless, the walls are so bare, or what, but I’ve always thought the space looked more impressive in pictures.
The good news is that the tables at Marrakesh are spaced out a little better than most other Epcot restaurants, where they tend to be crammed in as close as possible. *Looking at you, San Angel* During lunch, you’re also looking at maybe a third of the tables being occupied at most, which helps create a relaxed, intimate atmosphere.
There is scheduled entertainment inside the restaurant, beginning daily at 12:50pm, 1:50pm, 2:50pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, and 8pm.
Whenever possible, I’d try to make a reservation about 20 minutes before the entertainment is scheduled to start. That will give you time to sit down and order before the music and belly dancing begin. Unfortunately, few of the seats have much of a view of the dancer with all of the pillars in the way and the fact that at least half of the people in the restaurant will be facing away from the action by default. I wouldn’t book Marrakesh specifically for the entertainment, but it’s fun to see a glimpse of the dancer and the music is lively and upbeat. I was a little surprised by the short duration of the show – the belly dancing only lasts about ten minutes per set. If they’d hire me, I’d dance all day.
Onto the food, here’s a look at the menu as it’s presented inside the restaurant:
It’s relatively expansive, offering eight different appetizers and eleven entrees, though several of the items are a combination of other dishes.
I was really impressed with the complimentary bread that’s served alongside each meal this time around. It was light, fluffy, and chewy and tasted like it had just come out of the oven. It’s a bit of a bummer that it’s served alongside defrosted butter packets, but it’s been that way for years. You’d think there would be some sort of salt of the Mediterranean that would taste great sprinkled on top of something fresher.
We started with the $15 “Goat Cheese with Crispy Bread for Two – Mixture of Cheese and Kalamata Olives served with Tabouleh, Red Pepper Sauce, and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction.” This may not be particularly authentic, but it tastes great with the creamy, tangy goat cheese spiced up with the red pepper along with a real pop of flavor from the balsamic. The crispy bread is a nice textural contrast. This is a safe choice if you’re already a little bit wary about what’s coming next.
This is the “Seasoned Beef Rolls served with Tomato and Cucumber Salad,” that comes with the Chef’s Lunch Special. It’s really one of their Beef Brewat Rolls along with a sizable portion of the Jasmina Salad. I’ve grown to enjoy the Beef Brewat Rolls, though they may not be what you’re expecting. The interior is a mixture of spiced minced beef and egg which is then deep fried and served with quite a bit of cinnamon and powdered sugar. The overall flavor profile is hard to describe, but for me, there’s a distinct holiday vibe with the pronounced flavor of the cinnamon and the spices in the beef with the satisfying crunch of the wrapper. It’s certainly an interesting juxtaposition of sweet and savory. The Lunch Special is a good opportunity to give it a whirl, particularly if you slice it up and let others at the table give it a taste.
I thought the Mustard Vinaigrette on the salad, which is a mixture of tomato, cucumber, lettuce, olives, and feta was too overbearing, perhaps because there was so much of it. But it’s the right idea and the ingredients were all fresh and flavorful. If you remember, ask for the dressing on the side. I obviously didn’t.
The “Chicken Kebabs served with Rice mixed with Vegetables” as served with the Chef’s Lunch Special. The chicken is seasoned really nicely, but the meat is typically dry and overcooked. Or even if it was at some point hot and juicy, the plate sits back in the kitchen waiting for someone to order it for too long. It’s frustrating because it’s so close to being a fantastic dish. Still, the blend of lemon juice, cilantro, paprika, cumin, pepper, and more tastes so good that it’s almost possible to give the dryness of the chicken a pass. The vegetables on the kebab tasted surprisingly good – the peppers, onions, and zucchini were all fresh and flavorful. You’d just think that after 35 years they could figure out chicken kebabs. Then again, I’ve been doing blogs for 15 years and still probably come off just as dry.
The $22 “Shish Kebab Grilled Tenderloin of Beef with mixed Vegetables Yellow Rice” was a nice assortment of reasonably-tender, nicely-seasoned, averagely-cooked steak along with zucchini, tomato, and onion. The steak enjoys a similar blend of spices as the chicken, but there’s more garlic and salt here, which really enhances the natural flavors of the juicy beef. We preferred the Beef Kebabs to the Chicken.
The Rice is a fine accompaniment, tasting somewhat like a Pilaf with the vegetables providing a little bit of of a crunchy contrast to the supple rice. You’re probably not coming to Marrakesh for the rice, but it’s executed well and I liked being able to break up the bolder flavors of the meat with the seasoned rice.
The $24 “Roast Lamb Meshoui – Lamb Shank Braised in Natural Juice served with mixed Vegetables Yellow Rice, Zucchini, Capers Lemon Confit, and Tomatoes” is quite the hunk of lamb attached to the bone.
You’ll want to be prepared for that. But after doing a little trimming, the lamb is incredibly tender and juicy and there’s quite a bit of it, which is a departure from a lot of the sorts of lamb chops that you’ll see across property. Only order it if you’re willing to dig in, though. The mixture of zucchini and tomato with the lemon and capers was a nice acidic contrast to the meat, offering a burst of fresh vegetable flavor with a serious kick of citric acid. Very good and a bargain at this price point.
The $20 “Couscous with Chicken – The National Moroccan Dish – Steamed Tiny Semolina Pasta with Steamed Vegetables” was the most disappointing dish we tried over the course of the meal. The chicken was dry, tough, and barely seasoned at all. The marinade saved the Chicken Kebab, but there’s no such lifeline here. On the plus side, the couscous was light, fluffy, and flavorful, though the vegetables were bland and forgettable.
Overall, I’d probably stay away from the chicken dishes here and “upgrade” to beef or lamb for just a couple dollars more.
Here’s the listing for the Berber Feast along with the Dessert listing:
If you’re particularly hungry or would like to share, then the Berber Feast is probably smart. But that’s a lot of food.
The Baklava that’s served with that Feast along with the Lunch Special that I ordered is the same as the $7 Moroccan Symphony that’s listed on the menu as “Assorted Moroccan Pastries.” This was a light, nutty way to end the meal with a variety of flavors and textures alongside the chocolate hazelnut spread. It’s a stretch for seven bucks a la carte, but “felt” like a good value when attached to one of the set-course meals.
The $6 “Marrakesh Delight – Fresh Fruit Salad topped with Mint Ice Cream, toasted Almonds, and Orange Blossom Water” is basically a can of fruit cocktail emptied into a bowl with a scoop of Edy’s Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream on top and then Orange Blossom Water poured over the top of that. It was a cool, refreshing way to end the meal, but the Orange Blossom Water is surprisingly bitter against the artificial flavor of the ice cream and crunchy canned fruit. For $6 it’s a pretty big portion, though. Two people could easily share it, but I have no idea why you’d pick this over visiting L’Artisan des Glaces next door unless you’re forced to order dessert on the Dining Plan or something.
Here’s what the “Bastilla – Crispy Leaves of Pastry topped with Vanilla Cream and sprinkled with Cinnamon, Powdered Sugar, and Toasted Almonds” looked like a couple of years ago when I last ordered it. At the time, I said it was extremely sweet with just some flat puff pastry underneath and ultimately fell short.
Here’s what it looks like in the picture book. It might be worth a shot on the Dining Plan over the other two options, but I doubt we’re in “must try” territory here when purchased a la carte.
Overall, I don’t think that I’d make Restaurant Marrakesh my single table service restaurant dinner reservation at Epcot, but it might be a more economical lunch choice than you’d expect. The 3-course Chef’s Lunch Special is an absolute steal at $20, costing only a dollar or two more than a quick service entree and dessert just about anywhere else. The Berber Feast along with a second appetizer is probably plenty of food to satisfy most couples for around the same $20/person price. Add the pleasant air-conditioning, the entertainment, and the friendly service and you have a much more pleasant experience than waiting in line to order at La Cantina in Mexico only to find that there aren’t any tables left. Our server sensed that a member of our dining party wasn’t really into the Lamb Shank and insisted on switching it out for whatever else on the menu that she might like. Most servers wouldn’t have noticed and if they did, wouldn’t have said anything. We appreciated it.
We’ll see what’s next.