Alameda a la carte: Abigail's Moroccan Cuisine

Alameda a la carte: Abigail's Moroccan Cuisine

Cheryl Connick
Abigail's Cafe

Review: Abigail’s Moroccan Cuisine, 1132 Ballena Boulevard

I love family-owned restaurants – the ones where Mom and Dad are host, waiter and busboy all at the same time while their children sit quietly at a table off to the side keeping themselves busy until it is time to go home. This is Abigail’s Moroccan Cuisine.

Opened in April 2010 by Casablanca, Morocco natives Jonathan and Fatima Belkhalfia on a quiet Ballena Bay street with a stunning bay view, the restaurant offers lunch every day but Monday and a prix fixe dinner on Saturday nights that includes live belly dancing for entertainment.

I took a friend with me there last Saturday night, since my husband just couldn’t get behind Moroccan food and belly dancers. I made a reservation a couple of days ahead in case they got busy, and I’m glad I did: When we arrived at 7 p.m. the place was crowded, with only two open tables. Most of the other tables were large parties.

It took about five minutes to be seated – an awkward wait at the front of the restaurant since there wasn’t a hostess stand or any clear direction on where we were to go. There were no menus, since Saturday night is a prix fixe meal for $25 with your choice of chicken or lamb – more on that in a minute.

It took a solid 15 minutes before we were officially greeted at our table and when we were, the greeting was a little gruff. We were told by our server – who I would later find out was the owner – that one of their staff did not show up that night, so they were a little shorthanded. I appreciated his honesty and could sense that he was flustered, as the restaurant was now full.

The prix fixe menu started out with a plate of Moroccan “salads” which included pickled carrots, potatoes, roasted red peppers and an eggplant salad. The only thing we cared for was the eggplant salad. It was garlicky, tomatoey, and absolutely delicious! We scooped up every last bite with the bread that was served alongside the salad.

The second course was a choice of chicken or lamb. The chicken was a bit under-seasoned and slightly mushy – perhaps a bit overcooked. The lamb, however, was falling off-the bone-tender and flavorful. I was told these are cooked tajine-style, which traditionally means the meat is slowly cooked in a dome-shaped clay pot. Both dishes were served with a light and fluffy couscous garnished with just the right amount of slivered almonds.

The last course was mint tea and ghoriba, a Moroccan round shortbread cookie. The tea is presented with flair and shouldn’t be missed.

There is no alcohol at Abigail’s. When I made the reservation, I was told to bring my own beer, wine or whiskey as they don’t have an alcohol license. The restaurant does not charge a corkage fee. That’s right: You can bring any alcoholic beverage you want and they aren’t going to charge you a penny. We brought in a bottle of champagne and other tables had wine as well.

At 8 p.m. the music started to play and a woman emerged from behind a black curtain and began to dance around the restaurant. A table of women next to us stood up and the dancer started to show them some moves – sort of like Belly Dancing 101. The music and dancing continued on for quite a while and some of the restaurant’s patrons were clapping and having a great time, tipping the dancer with dollar bills. It was sort of fun to have live entertainment while eating dinner.

I went back for lunch a few days later and was pleasantly surprised. This time, the black curtain was opened and there was a counter with a cash register and blackboard menu behind it. The menu had a listing of sandwiches and salads ranging from $7.50 to $9. I ordered the chicken parmesan and Italian sandwiches – both were to die for! The Italian was vegetarian with sliced eggplant, roasted red peppers and melted mozzarella cheese on an Italian roll. The chicken on the other sandwich was perfectly cooked this time with a tangy tomato sauce and melted cheese, also on an Italian roll. There was also a scoop of that fabulous eggplant dip that we had tried a couple of nights before. I think Abigail’s should seriously consider bottling that stuff.

When you go for lunch – and I really hope you do – be sure to sit on the outside patio that overlooks the bay and San Francisco. On a sunny day, there is no better view!

Abigail’s Moroccan Cuisine, 1132 Ballena Boulevard. 523-5500. Open for lunch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and dinner from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Comments

Submitted by Marianne Carter (not verified) on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

Great review - it makes me want to go there !!

Submitted by LYNNE LATHBURY (not verified) on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

We, too, did not have a great experience with dinner, same excuse, new waiter. The food was good, but the service has stopped us from going again in the evening - maybe we'll try lunch.