“I’m Off on the Road to Morocco!”
I always hum the catchy tune as I head out Manchester to The Benevolent King. I mention the song, knowing that most of my readers have no idea what I’m talking about. After all, the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby/Dorothy Lamour “road shows” came out during The War.
One verse in the ’40s ditty ends: “Like Webster’s Dictionary, we’re Morocco bound.” That line was funnier in the day of leather bound books, than it is in the day of auto spell checking.
The Poremba Food Kingdom
The Benevolent King is the brainchild of prolific restauranteur, Ben Poremba, who serves up authentic Moroccan fare and more. Herbs and spices of the region are added to the food, but each dish bears his signature touch of frivolity. You might call it the “Poremba Twist.”
In a sense, Ben is returning to his roots—the food he ate in his mother’s kitchen—but with an overlay of his highly-applauded and much-awarded creativity.
Memories of Morocco
Put your taste buds on pause, while I reminisce a bit. Years ago, I was in Tangier, Morocco, briefly, and still have fond memories of the African city with the gorgeous coastal views.
Shopping at the street bazaar was a grand adventure for a wide-eyed tourist, as was sitting on pillows, savoring exotic new dishes.
I definitely remember the humpy-bumpy ride on a very wet camel at the tourist “camel-go-round”—it had just rained. My dromedary and I bonded along the path as we took on a common smell.
Okay, so much for the memories. Forgive me, I didn’t mean to turn this review into a travelogue. Back to the main event . . . .
The Benevolent King pays tribute to a former Moroccan monarch known for his kindness. What a clever idea! I like names that are anchored in history. Kudos to Ben for coming up with a restaurant name I don’t have to think about to spell or pronounce:
The Benevolent King reminds me of those French cafes with their undersize kitchens and cozy dining rooms. It all goes to prove Ben can turn anyplace into fine dining space if given some vegetables, a stove, and a few spices.
The menu changes periodically according to the season and Ben’s inspiration.
As Night Falls
The Benevolent King. 7268 Manchester Road in Maplewood. Open: Tue-Thu 5p-9p and Fri-Sat 5p-10a. Closed Sun-Mon.
Glossary of Terms Shown Above
- Salatim: Hebrew word for salad or cold dips eaten with bread.
- Babba Ganoush: Similar to hummus, but uses grilled or roasted eggplant instead of chickpeas.
- Zaalouk: An eggplant-tomato salad eaten with Moroccan bread.
- ras al hanout: Moroccan spice mix
- Hokkaido Scallops: Considered the best scallops in the word (also called Japanese scallops). Most coveted for their size, meatiness, and flavor.
- Wakame: Seaweed salad
- Koshihikan Rice: A short grain Japanese rice
- Harisssa Butter: A sauce or paste of dry red chilies, garlic and warm spices.
- Labna: Chocolate chip cake, thick creamy, and tangy made of double strained yogurt
- Malabi: A milk pudding perfumed with rosewater. Popular Middle East dessert.