Even though the Moroccan pavilion in World Showcase has no attractions like some of the other countries, the pavilion is really an attraction unto itself. It is one of my favorite pavilions to walk through because it so completely immerses you into the sights, sounds, and culture of Morocco. With its winding back alleys and little shops, the pavilion is very successful in making you feel as though you have been transported to Morocco itself.
In fact, in order to ensure the authenticity of the pavilion, King Hassan II of Morocco sent some of his finest craftsmen to work on the site with Disney Imagineers. These craftsmen helped generate hundreds of thousands of square feet of carved stone and tile work inspired by the traditions of Islamic architecture found in Moroccan cities like Casablanca, Marrakesh, Rabat, and Fez. This level of detail is what makes the pavilion so captivating to me. Although I have walked through it many times, I always seem to notice some new little detail whenever I go. This high level of detail and theming, creating a completely immersive experience, is continued into Restaurant Marrakesh.
Dining at Restaurant Marrakesh is about more than just the meal itself, but rather the complete experience. Of all the restaurants around World Showcase, Restaurant Marrakesh provides one of the most immersive dining experience. The art and architecture, the music, and of course the food all contribute to give guests a small taste of Moroccan culture. The back of the menu provides a short overview of the country's culture and traditions and notes that Morocco is a country of "timeless wonders," a country of whose ancient mosques, synagogues, souks, churches, and kasbahs feature art and architecture which has been developed and refined over centuries. Indeed, dining at Restaurant Marrakesh makes you feel as though you have been transported to a time and place very far away and everything that you see, hear, and taste during your meal all contributes to this experience.
While the dining room at Restaurant Marrakesh is not very large, it feels much bigger. Its high ceilings give the restaurant a very open feel, which is enhanced by the fact that the dining room is just one large space. Even the tables are also positioned so that they are not right on top of one another, giving an added sense of spaciousness. Also adding to this is a large, open dance floor located directly in the middle of the dining room.
The restaurant has a casual yet elegant feel, almost as if you were dining in the banquet hall of a Moroccan palace. This sense of grandeur, opulence, and luxury may not make it the best location when dining with small children, but it is an atmosphere that should not necessarily scare away families. However, the overall feel and theme of the dining room is one that will be appreciated more by adults.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the restaurant was the level of detail in its art and architectural elements, all of which gives you plenty to look at as you are dining. The elaborate carvings, mosaics, painted ceilings, decorative carpets, and light fixtures all help to create an exotic feel of a faraway land and highlight the beauty of Arabic art.
Adding to this atmosphere is the lighting, or lack thereof. The dining room has no windows and thus no natural light. What light there is comes from the intricate light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, including some with pink lightbulbs, giving the dining room a dark, romantic, and somewhat mysterious feel.
Another major element of the atmosphere is the live entertainment. As noted earlier, dining at Restaurant Marrakesh is about having a complete experience. The immersion into Moroccan culture does not stop with the art, architecture, and detailed theming, but continues with music and dancing performed periodically in the center of the restaurant. While the live music is not continuous (the performances last about a half an hour), there is a good chance that you will see them perform at some point during your meal.
The music, unlike anything I have ever heard before, adds to the exotic feel of the restaurant but at the same time is not too overpowering. While it is loud enough to be heard from all parts of the restaurant, it is not so loud that you cannot have a conversation with others sitting at your table. After playing a couple of songs, the musicians were joined by a belly dancer performing some traditional Moroccan dances. I thought it was a nice touch that the dancer invited some of the children to the dance floor in the center of the room to teach them some different moves.
Overall, the music and dancing create a festive atmosphere and combine with the food and the restaurant's architectural elements to completely transport you to Morocco. The restaurant has a completely different feel from anywhere else I have dined at Disney World and a large part of this is because it is a complete sensory experience; its sights, sounds, and tastes all combine to completely immerse you into Moroccan culture.
As noted on the restaurant's menu "Moroccan cuisine is presented in a fashion that enhances its surroundings." This was my first-ever experience with Moroccan food and the menu at Restaurant Marrakesh definitely includes some different and exotic items for the more adventurous diners. One thing that I can say about Moroccan cuisine after my meal is that it is all about flavor. Just in my meal alone I noticed a wide assortment of spices and flavors that both complimented and contrasted each other with a level of complexity that went beyond food that I am typically used to eating. That being said, the food was actually not as spicy as I expected, but still full of flavor.
The lunch and dinner menus differ slightly in terms of food offerings and prices and both feature a fairly wide assortment of Moroccan dishes. The appetizer selections are constant for both lunch and dinner and include Harira Soup ($5.99), traditional hearty soup with tomatoes, eggs, lentils and lamb, Beef Brewat Rolls ($7.99), baked layers of thin pastry filled with seasoned minced beef and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar, Chicken Bastilla ($8.99) featuring baked layers of thin pastry filled with minced chicken and almonds, Seafood Bastilla ($9.99) filled with grouper, shrimp, and mushrooms, an Assorted Mediterranean Salad for Two ($13.99) including falafel, sundried tomatoes, hummus, roasted eggplant puree, and tabbouleh, a Goat Cheese with Crispy Bread for Two ($13.99) with mixture of cheeses and kalamata olives served with tabouleh, red pepper sauce, and balsamic vinegar reduction, and an Appetizer Combination for Two ($16.99) that includes the Beef Brewat Rolls, Chicken Bastilla, and a Jasmina Salad.
Lunch entrees feature an assortment of seafood, beef, chicken, and even vegetarian selections. My server noted that one of the more traditional items on the menu was the Roast Lamb Meshoui ($18.99) served in natural juices. There is also a Shish Kebab ($18.99) with grilled tenderloin of beef marinated in Moroccan herbs and spices, Chicken Kebabs ($16.99) featuring grilled brochettes of chicken breast marinated in Moroccan herbs and spices, North Atlantic Salmon ($21.99) pan seared with mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, oil, and hummus $21.99, Lemon Chicken ($17.99) braised with garlic, green olives, and preserved lemon, and a variety of Couscous options including Vegetable ($14.99), Chicken ($17.99), Lamb Shank ($19.99), and Beef ($18.99). If you are looking for a wide assortment of Moroccan tastes and flavors there is the Berber Feast which is $27.95 per person and is served family style. This entrée includes a Jasmina Salad, Chicken Kebabs, Roast Lamb Meshoui, Vegetable Couscous, and Baklava.
Among some of the items found only on the dinner menu are the Mogador Fish Tagine ($27.99) featuring marinated fish with olives, lemon, potatoes, green peppers, and a chermula sauce. There is also the Mediterranean Seafood Platter ($36.95) that includes Seafood Bastilla, Shrimp Ragout and Broiled Salmon served with seasoned as well as the Night in Casablanca ($36.95) with Seafood Bastilla, Roasted Lamb Meshoui, and chicken Kebab served with seasoned rice. The most extensive offering is the Royal Feast which is $42.95 per person and is served family style. This meal includes Harira Soup, Beef Brewat Rolls, Lemon Chicken, Roast Lamb Meshoui, Vegetable Couscous, and Assorted Moroccan Pastries.
The dessert options are limited to a Moroccan Symphony ($6.99) with assorted baklavas, the Marrakesh Delight ($5.99), which is a fresh fruit salad topped with mint ice cream, toasted almonds, and orange blossom water, and a Bastilla with crispy leaves of pastry topped with vanilla cream and sprinkled with cinnamon, powdered sugar and toasted almonds (For Two - $8.99, For One - $7.99).
For my meal I decided to try the Chef's Lunch Special ($19.99), which included a prix fixe selection of an appetizer, entrée, and a dessert. I felt this was the best way to get the most complete sampling of different Moroccan dishes for a very affordable price.
The appetizer was a Beef Brewat Roll, a thin pastry filled with minced beef and then topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar and accompanied by a small salad. I was a little hesitant about this dish because I was not sure how the combination of beef with cinnamon and powdered sugar would taste. I turned out to be pleasantly surprised. The pastry roll itself was delicious. Crispy and flaky, it tasted very much like a pastry you would have for dessert. The beef was not too heavily season and, in fact, the roll would not have had much flavor if it had not been for the cinnamon and powdered sugar. I was shocked at how well the cinnamon complimented and enhanced the flavor of the beef. These are not too flavors that I would typically associate with each other, but they contrasted and yet complimented each other very well. The salad that came with the beef roll was very light and refreshing and was topped with a mayonnaise-based salad dressing that was very creamy.
The entrée on the lunch special was Chicken Kebabs, a dish that I have had before at other restaurants but never matching the flavors of the ones here at Marrakesh. The chicken was seasoned with Moroccan herbs and spices, which definitely gave it a little kick but was far from being overwhelming. There was also a slightly spicy sauce served over the kebabs, which enhanced the flavor of the chicken and added more complexity and depth to the flavor of the meal as a whole. My only complaint was that there could have been more sauce because, although the chicken was very tender, it was a little dry.
Accompanying the chicken on the kebabs were mushrooms seasoned with the same spices. Although the mushrooms paired very well with the chicken, I felt they could have been cooked a little longer because they were a bit hard. The kebabs also came with rice. Surprisingly, for all the flavor found in the rest of the dish, the rice was pretty plain. This is another reason why it would have been nice to have more sauce because mixing it with the rice would have given it much more flavor.
The dessert was Baklava, a Moroccan specialty. Although the portion was not too big, it was just right size after a large meal. The pastries were light, flaky, and very sweet, which offered a nice contrast to the spiciness of the chicken kabobs. The Baklava was also topped with almonds which added more flavor and texture to the dessert.
The service was really the only disappointing part of my experience at Restaurant Marrakesh. I hardly ever saw my server at all throughout the entire meal and when I did see him there was very little interaction. After I was seated, the server brought me a menu but did not even explain or describe any of the items for me, which I found a bit surprising because not too many Americans are familiar with Moroccan food. After taking my order the only times I saw my server were when he was bringing out my appetizer, entrée, and dessert. The server did not even stop by to make sure I was enjoying everything, which has never happened to me at a Disney restaurant. That being said, I thought the pace of the meal was very good. Sometimes when you order off of a prix fixe menu the appetizer, entrée, and dessert are brought out in rapid succession, but here the meal progressed at a leisurely pace giving you time to enjoy the entertainment and digest between courses.
Dining on a Budget:
As with most restaurants at Disney World, I highly recommend going to Restaurant Marrakesh for lunch rather than dinner because you are getting a very similar menu but at a much cheaper price. For example, the Roast Lamb Meshoui will cost you $18.99 for lunch but then goes up to $27.99 for dinner. Likewise the Shish Kebabs are $18.99 for lunch and $28.99 for dinner, the Chicken Kebabs go up from $16.99 for lunch to $24.99 for dinner, and the Lemon Chicken increases from $17.99 for lunch to $25.99 for dinner. I am sure the dinner portions are larger than the lunch portions, but I left lunch feeling completely full and satisfied.
The best value on the menu for either lunch or dinner is definitely the Chef's Lunch Special because you get a complete meal with appetizer, entrée, and dessert for just $19.99. The lunch and dinner menus actually feature several options that allow you to sample of variety of Moroccan dishes and while these are more expensive than the Lunch Special, they still offer a good value for your money. The Berber Feast for $27.95, Mediterranean Seafood Platter for $36.95, the Night in Casablanca for $36.95, and even the Royal Feast for $42.95 might seem a little expensive, but when you consider the amount and assortment of food you get with each they come out to be cheaper than if you were ordering an appetizer, entrée, and dessert separately off the menu.
Restaurant Marrakesh does participate on the Disney Dining Plan and is worth one table service credit for both lunch and dinner. The restaurant also offers a 10% discount for Annual Passholders, but only for lunch on Mondays through Fridays. There is also a 20% discount for Disney Vacation Club Members for both lunch and dinner. The restaurant also participates in Tables in Wonderland and offers the 20% for its members.
The Overall Experience:
This was my first time dining at Restaurant Marrakesh and I can say without a doubt that I will definitely be going back again. Nearly every aspect of the restaurant exceeded my expectations. The level of detail and theming in the restaurant's décor, the authentic Moroccan music and dancing, and the extremely flavorful food all contributed to create a completely immersive atmosphere. I think this has to be one of the more exotic dining locations I have eaten at in Disney World. More so than many other dining locations at Disney, Restaurant Marrakesh transports you to another time and another place, a faraway land very different from our own, and gives you a little taste of Moroccan culture. I would highly recommend this restaurant for anyone looking for a meal that is both different and unique. It is definitely a restaurant for the more adventurous eater, those people who like to try different dishes and experience different flavors. The best part of Restaurant Marrakesh is that it is more than just a meal, but rather an experience that is aptly described on the restaurant's menu as "a cultural feast."
See past reviews by Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi.
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