Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tagine Moroccan Restaurant (at The Palms Hotel) Review

Have you ever noticed that you will never see a negative restaurant review in the local media? Why do you think that is? Are periodicals afraid that they will lose their advertising from these restaurants? Is it because they are afraid of lawsuits - which are actually only based on opinion stories? There is also no integrity when it comes to restaurant reviews in print media in Kuwait: The magazines/papers actually want the restaurants to know that the reporters are coming in advance (unlike in Europe and the US), so that they bring out their best (ergo the positive restaurant reviews). It is already biassed. How 'bout some honesty? I guess it is all up to bloggers.

I went with three friends to the new Tagine Restaurant in The Palms Hotel that has been advertised all over Kuwait. It has been fully booked, so I made reservations way in advance. We arrived early by Kuwait standards at 7:30, so the restaurant was relatively empty.

Perhaps because it was empty, we were treated to “the show”. There was a very nice, very pretty, very giggly hostess who seemed to be bored out of her mind. She was literally leaned over, with her upper body resting against the top of the host podium, with her eyes closed. This was in between personal calls to her boyfriend (in Arabic – which she probably didn’t think we could understand), “Where are you? At the diwaniya? I hear a woman’s voice! Is there a woman with you?” When she wasn’t busy with those two things, she was intent on listening to our conversation: We were going to ask her to join us at the table at one point after her endless staring. When male customers walked into the restaurant, she was very flirty, and giggly; several times running to find a waiter/colleague, so that she could relay what the men had said to her. Our conclusion was that she is young, inexperienced, and probably new to Kuwait judging by her enthusiasm at dealing with the male Kuwaiti population. (I was with Slapperella, The Romanian, and Ms. T; we are all pretty jaded when it comes to that, so we can easily spot a newbie.) Giggly Hostess was almost argumentative with the female patrons trying to get tables (but at least she got off the personal calls long enough to address them). If you want to get spanked over not making a reservation, Tagine is the place to be this week!

Since it is still in “soft opening” mode, Tagine only has a limited amount of menus (it actually costs more to print fewer copies, so WTF). We asked 4 times to see a menu after we were seated. Giggly Hostess was apologetic, but not much help. We shared a single menu for a long time before other patrons were finished looking at theirs and the menus were passed along to us.
They finally brought out salads (which come with all the meals), but they were served in very small dishes – not really enough for a party of 4. We ordered a seafood bastilla for an appetizer; very dry and disappointing; approximately 5” in diameter. The tagines come in 3 sizes of small, medium, and large. We ordered a large Tagine Marrakesh (lamb shanks with Moroccan spices) for 3 of us; Ms. T ordered a “Spring Chicken”. When the lamb arrived, it was not served in a tagine, but in a 15” tall clay water pot, brought out with a sheet of aluminum foil covering the opening (fancy!). The waiter had difficulty serving it and when we wanted more, we had to stand up at the table to reach the bottom. The lamb was a major disappointment; 2/3 fat to 1/3 actual meat. It was relatively bland even for Moroccan standards. The vegetable cous cous wasn’t anything exceptional either. The Spring Chicken was well past its prime and should probably have been called “December Chicken”; very dry and not very flavorful. We spent KD 54 on dinner for four and all agreed that neighborhood Indian take-out would have been better.

Our waiter wasn’t much better than the hostess. He departed the table when we were in mid-sentence speaking to him - several times. It became amusing after some time.

The d├ęcor is probably the best thing about the restaurant: gorgeous; typically Moroccan. The serving dishes were equally pretty in a blue and white design with matching table linens. Even Giggly Hostess wore a beautiful Moroccan kaftan (duraa) in blue and white. The restaurant also has an outstanding oud player with a wonderful voice, adding to the ambiance.

Tagine will definitely be a romantic dining experience -- if they can ever get their act together and perhaps take a stronger look at staff training, menu ingredients, and pricing: I would give it another six months. Don’t waste your money on the soft opening. It is a pity because the owners have obviously gone to a lot of trouble to create a beautiful atmosphere.

NOTE TO Tagine Restaurant Management: You might want to actually have COMMENTS CARDS available for a soft opening. It would have been helpful.


Purgatory said...

I do not get it

Purgatory said...

Sorry, that was the comment for another blog.

How much does the hostess cost?

ammaro said...

nice review :) some photos would be nice, although i dont think you'll be going back there anytime soon :p

Desert Girl said...

Purgatory - See, you and I think alike. It is uncanny!

Thanks Ammaro. I was going to bring my camera, but I forgot.

Intlxpatr said...

Thank you for a great review - think we'll pass on that one! There is another new Moroccan restaurant that just opened in the Alia Galia Towers in Mahboula - have you tried that one yet?

Desert Girl said...

Intlxpatr: Oh cool. I didn't know there was another Moroccan restaurant around. I'll have to get down there to try that one. There used to be one in the Kuwait Plaza Hotel (now the Swiss Inn) about 6 years go. About the same time, there was a carry out Moroccan restaurant in Salmiya near Fresh, but it closed at almost the same time too. I had a good friend in DC who was Moroccan and she cooked much better than anything I've had in restaurants. I miss that.

Purgatory said...

Here is another thing that makes you go hmmmmmmm

Whats with the sudden interest in Moroccon Food?

Sings: Things that make you go hmmm, things that make you go hmmmmmm, THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMMMMMMM

Desert Girl said...

Purg - What's my interest or what whose? I mighta thought that the sudden opening of Moroccan restaurants might also include the import of say... "workers".... but if tht was the case, then there would be Iraqi restaurants opening all over.

Projectile Mayhem said...

Damn, I was looking forward to going there. About your remarks dealing with local media, I used to write restaurant reviews for a local newspaper here and in several occasions gave a negative review. The backlash is unbelieveable. One manager and owner harrased me for weeks threatening to sue and deport me (when he obviously had no grounds to do so and was a foreigner himself)... Even when I gave a positive review that had a pinch of criticism in it I would get harrassed...In the end I figured it wasn't worth it...I dont know if it's like this with others, but that's how it was with me

f7ee7eely said...

I sure as hell dont want to be the owner of Tajine reading this review! LOL

Armani Exchanger said...

really disappointed :(

Moey said...

7asafa 3ad I love pool bar & gaucho grill at the palms.

this is going to be bad!

Shopa said...

I heard that the one in alia & ghalia is another branch of Tagine...I might heard wrong though

Hasan.B said...

I have tried tajin in dubai, is just fantastic! Dont know about kuwait though;r

Desert Girl said...

I drove by Alia & Ghalia the other night (on my way to Wasabi) and there is another Moroccan restaurant there called Marakesh. I'm going to try them soon.

I wrote an unfavorable review of a certain health club one time for Kuwait Life magazine (no longer in circulation). The club management contacted the editor and threatened to sue the magazine. Fortunately, the magazine was owned by influential people, so she was secure in saying, "Bring it on! We love the publicity." A lot of folks just won't stand up to passionate threats.

You know what, though: ANY feedback can be viewed positively. Many places pay big bucks for quality auditors and business consultants to come in and evaluate their business practices. Reviews, comments, feedback provide that information to business owners for FREE.

For restauranteurs, this type of feedback can be used in several ways: As a training tool for their employees; as an opportunity to re-evaluate their menus and pricing; and to know that the designer they chose for the venue was worth the money. They might even use it for positive advertising later. For example: "We're a young restaurant learning along the way. We've just changed our approach, so stop by and give us a chance. You won't be disappointed." EVERYTHING depends on your outlook and how you perceive a situation.

For example, a while back, I had a bad experience at the Crowne Plaza - which I discussed (with photos) on this blog. The CP management contacted me and showed me ways in which they had improved. I was impressed.

As far as Tagine is concerned, they are new and are still working out glitches. It will probably get better in 6 months. I just wouldn't go there and pay big money for bad food and service now. Wait till it gets better.

Gaucho ROCKS by the way. One of my very favorite restaurants. Desmond is my favorite server/customer service rep in Kuwait. He's amazing. His talents are being wasted waiting on tables. He should be in customer service management somewhere.

bo9agr said...

i wrote a short review about the other moroccan rest. Marrakish here as a comment two days ago, seems like it got lost or something, anyway..
in short..the food was great, waiters were nice and responsive, prices were fair, but the portions were rather small.
btw, we were 3 persons and we paid 27 kd only.

Desert Girl said...

Bo9agr - Thanks for the info. I will check them out (and order extra if I'm really hungry!).

ragi said...

I've been in this restaurant yesterday, and actually i was impressed not only because of the cousy atmosphere but with the magnificent service and food. I don't know were did Desert Girl bring these comment from, but honestly i think she had a bad luck day.

By the way, we were a couple and we paid only 22 KD.

Baroon said...

Thank u for the reviwe. you should do it more often. it was just in time and very helpful .
as the ads. all over the streets i was thinking to take a friend who is going to visit kuwait to impress him with morocan resturan !
you resqued me girl :)

eronious said...

Hi! Does anyone have the phone number for the Marrakesh? Thanks!

Teach said...

Hey I was reading this as my hubby and I are heading down to Marrakesh in Mahboula/Fintas / Abu Halifa for fetoor and we wondered what it was like.
Hope still as good as in january.
I will post on my return

Anonymous said...

There is a very nice moroccan restaurant in Kuwait City. I accidently found it as I picked up my lunch from Opera which is very close to this place. As I was walking I saw the morococcan decorations at the entrance. I was curious to find out. I picked up a menu and later on I went with my friends couple of days later and their food was GREAT! They have a buffet after 7 pm for KD 8. For the food and the experience, it is an excellent price. They also have nice flat screen TV's. You can order ala carte before 7. I enjoyed the food because it was fresh. To get directions you may call 22471919. The place is well done but the location is not so uptown. But you can't get everything I guess.

adoula said...

The need original moroccan ingredients . I was informed by the rest manager himself they can not find them in here .really upest to know this especially if you know that Moroccan cuisine is ranked 3rd in the world after French and chinese cuisines .
helas .. I hope they will overcome this ..

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I am a newcomer in Kuwait and I like very much Morrocan food.

I just found outh that teh Marrakech in Alia/Ghalia Towers Mahbulla is not there anymore; instead there is a Lebanaise restaurance. So waht are the other options in Kuwait in 2012?


Abdelillah Aboudkhil said...

Hey there Desert Girl! I totally appreciate your input and your comments! You sound like a reasonable person with your review on the Moroccan restaurant, but wouldn't it be more reasonable to call for the restaurant manager first when you notice something is not up to your standards? This way you'd have had a chance to comment on the manager's reaction too! Based on my experience, no five star business guarantees a "no problem service" but they guarantee that problems will be taken care of and solved in a professional manner!
The lamb dish you had and described back in 2008 is indeed a greasy dish! It's called "Tangiah" I myself can't stand the amount of fat this dish has...
I just wish you took extra steps in calling management to give the readers a global input of the restaurant in many levels. Thanks!!

Desert Girl said...

Hi Abdelillah.

Why should i call the manager?

This was an unbiassed first hand account/review of my dining experience. As you can see, it was a review done in 2008. If the restaurant was on top of social media and/or public reviews, they could have contacted me anytime during the past SIX years to make amends or have me go back to do another review once the problems had been resolved. It is not the job of the reviewer to be a restaurant manager. As any customer, i have a choice and i have not been back since.

If the restaurant management wanted to know how my dining experience was (in a 5 star or at a McDonalds) the manager could either stop by my table or hand out customer comments cards. Alternatively send in mystery shoppers or google their restaurant name periodically to see if anyone has run a review.

Thank you for your comments.