When you want to have a good meal paired with quality beer, the same roster of usual suspects tends to emerge: Monk's Kettle, Alembic, Magnolia, and other spots that taught you the term "gastropub" (we know; the word sounds like some sort of distressing stomach ailment). But what if you aren't in the mood for refined California cuisine? If you want to explore the varied landscape of traditional ethnic cuisine, your suds options tend to be more limited. We've all been to a Thai or Indian restaurant that offers a staggering array of flavorful dishes, only to be paired with your choice of the Silver Bullet or the Champagne of beers. In this series, we'll be exploring ethnic restaurants which offer thoughtful beer selections.
First up, Moroccan food. With its diverse Mediterranean and Arab influences, the cuisine is ripe for unique beer pairings. We were happy to stumble upon Oakland's Tanjia. Billowy, blanketed ceilings? Check. Belly dancer shimmying around the dining room? Naturally. And, most importantly for our purposes, three local beers on tap. But, far be it from us to pass on a genuine Moroccan beer. We paired the native Casa lager beer with the vegetarian Moroccan cigars (think egg rolls filled with spiced carrots and zucchini). The light, effervescent beer served to refresh the palate between bites of the fried, robustly spiced rolls.
Next, we moved on to a pint of Drake's 1500 Pale Ale alongside a chicken bastilla. With its chicken, egg, and almond filling cooked inside flaky phyllo dough, the dish is decidedly savory. However, its defining character is the powdered sugar and cinnamon topping that lightly sweetens the content of this Moroccan hot pocket. A one-two punch of Simcoe and Amarillo hops in the beer provided a citrus-and-pine-tinged character that accentuated the flavor of the almonds and cut through the initial sweetness of the powdered sugar. The juxtaposition of recipes lifted from the owner's mother's kitchen in Morocco with fresh local beer was a winner. Our only suggestion is to add something rich and dark to compliment the lamb and beef roasts and tagines on the menu. A robust porter or Belgian dubbel would do the trick. We'll gladly offer beer consulting services in exchange for belly dancing lessons.
Tanjia 4905 Telegraph (at 49th St.), Oakland. 510-653-8691