Mansouria - No Aces in the Desert

Paris is no desert, especially when it comes to Moroccan restaurants, but unfortunately Mansouria is no oasis in the crowd.  Funny, I used to think it was.  Last decade, Co. and I had probably made the trip over to the Faidherbe-Chaligny Bermuda Triangle for a Moroccan repast 4 or 5 times, but for some reason the restaurant fell off our charts.  As a longtime mainstay, we considered the ambiance and cooking a cut above average compared to your typical neighborhood Moroccan.  Co. always commented about how the lamb had that special something, and I always enjoy a tasty, steaming hot tagine.

And so it was about a month ago when I suddenly had the inspiration to return to Mansouria for something a bit off the beaten path of neo-bistrots/contemporary French cuisine.  Out of the metro bearing northwest instead of northeast, the latter in the direction of Paul Bert and his neighbors.  There she was, an impressive orange glow on the corner, and upon entry, nothing much had changed.  Inside, several small, well-appointed rooms await, but we were led - as is often a custom when the restaurant hasn't yet filled up - to a conspicuous table next to a front window.  Check out the website for some more photos of the various
Mansourian rooms.  Elegant, chic, very Middle Eastern, yes indeed.

Not one who usually opts for a fixed menu in ethnic establishments, I found everything I desired in the reasonably-priced menu Diaffa (28€) - the briwatte du fromage entry, poulet tagine with lemon and olives, and an unassuming refresher for dessert.

Co. went with the spicy shrimp fingers (Les doigts de la mariée, 8€), the aforementioned lamb couscous (20€), and a tea gourmand (accompanied by 2 cornes de gazelle - those half-moon-shaped almond pastries, 8€).  

And this is what the tagine and lamb looked like, respectively:

As perhaps suggested by the photos, the meal left us wondering why we had thought Mansouria was so wonderful.  My tangine was uninspired, and Co. opined that her lamb was lacking that special something, whatever it ever had been.  The accompanying dishes were pretty forgettable.  Service was friendly and attentive, and sure enough, it wasn't long before the place filled up, another busy night in the popular Triangle, location perhaps having a lot to do with Mansouria's longevity.  My two thumbs up went up for the couscous, delicate and fine, as it should be, and the little dish of overly spicy harissa I had requested.  I noticed the server issuing the same warning to each table, along the lines of 'you must be careful not to try this because it is so spicy.'  Is such concern really warranted?  I mean, when I ask for hot sauce, I only want to be warned when it isn't going to melt the inside of my mouth.  I have to admit, though, this one was pretty melt-worthy.

Overall, with a decent Moroccan red for a change (Riad Jamil, 26€), our dinner clocked in at 90€ for a truly unimpressive price-quality relationship.  Trust me, you can do as well, or better, at a far more reasonable price at your neighborhood Moroccan standby, which is where I'll be headed next time.

11 rue Faidherbe
75011 Paris
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