Chef Karim’s Restaurant
Karim’s is closing his restaurant after about 20 years of serving yummy Moroccan food to Santa Barbara.
So come and get it while it lasts. Doors close at the end of March.
Hospitality is a gesture of honor to Moroccans, at least my understanding of it. The dealio is that travelers passing through were doing the Haj, and the gift of the Haj wasn’t about reaching the destination, but about what was learned in the journey. So taking in a guest meant contributing to their life journey, education and enlightenment.
Eating at Karim’s is a bit like doing your own little Haj, and being his guest. There is an abundance of food, and he’ll often come out to sit and talk with you.
It starts with a welcome, being given a towel to put in your lap, and getting your hands washed with orange flower water from a silver Tass.
You pick a main course, and this includes a set meal of all other accompaniments, like soup, a dish of salads (a bit like mezze), b’stilla (heavenly! and something I never figured out how to make on my own), couscous and vegetables, and dessert of sweet syrup cookies, fruit and mint tea. And of course, piles and piles of good Moroccan bread.
Some nights will have bellydancing, and you either love it or hate it, depending on how outgoing you are, because you do get pulled onto the floor to join in.
I love the tajines and tend towards the lamb with prunes and sesame or the chicken with preserved lemon and olives. Finger-licking good, literally. Cuz you are supposed to eat with your hands.
The ambiance is very sensuous, with fabrics on the wall, and long seats around the circumference of the dining room, piled with pillows.
Lots of people come for special occasions, and big groups. This can be great fun, but I liked coming with just one or two other people and mingling with the other diners and staff. After all, I can contribute to others’ mini-life journeys, too. It was just a few years ago, with a few friends, that spontaneous dancing broke out late into the evening with the restaurant crew, complete with bellydancing (poorly, on our parts), hula hooping, and one waiter balancing a corner of a table on his head!
I came here recently for a friend’s birthday, and again, lots of dancing, group chatter, music, lounging…the works. And we ate until our bellies hurt.
But all good things must come to and end. You’ve got to the last weekend of March to get the full experience of Moroccan hospitality. After that, Karim will be all about catering and cooking classes, which will be good no doubt, but not the same as the sights and sounds his restaurant offers.