Is This the Most Beautiful Food in California?

March 3, 2018

The first thing you notice about the food at Mourad is how incredibly beautiful it is. Mourad Lahlou, doesn’t cook; in love with color, shape and texture, he paints each plate.  Something as simple as a turmeric and strawberry drink arrives looking like a southwest sunset, a crescent of blood orange slowly setting in the center.  A dish of olives is strewn with flower petals – instant party – and even though you didn’t mean to, you reach for one.

Chicken wings – chicken wings!- are the loveliest landscape, all soft mounds and melting colors, the tender meat glazed with lemon and burnt honey with broccoli flowers scattered across the plate.

Lahlou coaxes flavors you’ve never imagined out of the most ordinary ingredients, and suddenly you’re somewhere else, Marrakesh perhaps, hearing the muezzin calling in the faithful.

He even contrives to make luxury ingredients seem somehow new.  Caviar, snuggled beneath crisp curls of cucumber, is partnered with neither toast nor blini, but soft warm pillows of bread.

Salmon is very smoky, so smoky it is barely fish but some new substance surrounded by fennel and kissed with blood orange.

Kefta meatballs arrive looking like a St. Lucia wreath, the most delicate lamb you’ve yet encountered.

And Lalou’s version of b’stilla- which speaks more loudly to the mouth than to the eye- is irresistible. It is filled with duck, curry, almonds and…is that a touch of banana?

Desserts- well you have to try them. Pistachio cake, just a small sliver, is crowned with citrus.

And chocolate is a jolt, its dark side coaxed out beneath the sweetness.  It’s the perfect flavor to send you out the door.

 

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