All meals should include a belly dancer, a fire show and a shoeless seating arrangement on a plush couch. All while eating dinner with your fingers. Altogether this and more is delivered at my long-standing favorite restaurant in Atlanta, Imperial Fez. Medieval Times has jousters, Alluvia has strippers, and Imperial Fez has belly dancers. The common thread is entertainment during dinner. I’ve always wondered why more restaurants do not provide entertainment during dinner. A five course meal is so much more enjoyable when you have dancers. The thing about long dinners is they take a LONG time. You inevitably run out of things to talk about with your tablemates. Dancing and entertainment breaks up the table chatter and adds an authentic touch-of-something-fun.
A little background on the meal: last Monday I was invited to a Tinsley Tasting at Imperial Fez. Although she was unable to attend, Patricia Tinsely setup the most enjoyable meal I've ever had with a bunch of strangers. There was something special about this group . . . the conversation was easy, the guests were extremely comfortable to be around. Not to mention the collective shared excitement for the meal we were about to devour together. We also had the honor of spending time with Rafih, the chef at Imperial Fez. Rafih is a wealth of knowledge regarding Moroccan culture. His passion for food and all-things-Morocco is intoxicating; I could listen to him for hours. When you meet Rafih you get the feeling that he's put a lot of thought and effort into creating an environment that mimics a traditional Moroccan home. All guests in his "home" enjoy traditional Moroccan customs and food. In addition to Rafih, my tablemates for the evening included two wonderful food bloggers that I hadn't met before, Patti and Veronica, a comic named Tushar; Evelyn and Suchita both from the Good Day Atlanta morning show. Not to mention Jay of Goliath Consulting and the photographer Thomas James.
To start off the night we drank a special Imperial Fez “happy drink”. Tushar described it as "hunch punch" minus the grain alcohol. To me it tasted like Hawaiian Punch if it were spiked. But let’s be honest about the alcohol content. This drink has vodka, tequila, and rum among other things. The irony of the drink is that it's full of liquor but you don’t taste the alcohol. You only feel the alcohol after a few sips and that warm fuzzy feeling comes over you . . . almost too fast . . . which signals WARNING "high alcohol content". It’s a delicious, sneaky Moroccan version of the Long Island Ice Tea. When in Morocco, do as the Moroccan's!
After our drink we moved onward to the five course meal. First we began with a Herrira Moroccan Lentil Soup which we drank like a cup of tea (no soup spoon). The second course was a variety of Moroccan Salads with a special Red Harissa Hot Sauce on the side that is hand-made by Chef Rafih. The salad was so pretty and colorful - - -the hot sauce accompaniment extremely HOT and tasty. Our third course was the Appetizer B’stella which is a thin, crispy dough pocket filled with seasoned Cornish hen, topped with Cinnamon and Sugar. It’s a unique dish that is extremely tasty. The B’stella plays off the savory and sweet sensations; this dish has just the right amount of crispy and chewy crust. The filling alone will knock your socks off with flavor.
For the main course I ordered Cornish Hen Tajine baked with apricots, ginger, saffron, and honey (garnished with roasted almonds and sesame seeds). I was so enamored by this dish that I forgot to take a photo of it before I dove-in head first for consumption. The fruits, nuts and honey were a perfect arragement of flavors with the hen; a combination of sweet and toasty. Being completely entranced with my meal I forgot that I was attending a tasting and that I was supposed to share my meal . . . but I couldn’t resist; I was on Cornish Game Hen lock-down. Towards the end of my meal I opted for a small trade of short ribs and lamb shank from Evelyn and Tushar. Both the lamb and short ribs could be described as “falling off the bone” – obviously slow cooked with care for a long period of time before serving. What an amazing meal!
It was towards the end of the night when my new friend Evelyn and I were discussing what a pleasure it was to meet each other. I often talk with my hands and in doing so I knocked a “happy drink” directly into her lap, soaking her shoes. Ahhhrg! I felt terrible, but thankfully the drink was only half full and it was the end of the night. This type of "incident" is typical for me. Off the top of my head, and only a week ago, I knocked a full cup of hot coffee into my own lap. Luckily it wasn’t scalding McDonalds-hot coffee. The main result being a huge coffee mess (sans melted clothing and burnt skin- whew!). Another similar experience was on the night of my honeymoon: My husband said something funny and I knocked a glass of champagne into our rose petal filled bubble bath. The glass shattered in our Jacuzzi tub just before we could take one step into the tub. I’ve come to terms with the fact that breakable objects should not be within five feet of me when I’m eating, drinking, laughing, lounging, Jacuzzi-ing, sitting, swimming - - -literally breakable glass shouldn’t be near me. It can be hazardous to your health. Future dinner guests, beware.