By Natalie Manitius
A Moroccan restaurant called Mazagan, named after the Atlantic port city, will open on the redeveloping Columbia Pike and plans for an April debut.
Chef Riyad Bouizar and his entrepreneur nephew Reda Bouizar hope to promote Moroccan cuisine and “be more open to different cultures,” Reda says, lamenting that existing local Moroccan restaurants cater only to the Moroccan clientele.
The kabob menu will offer 18 varieties, ranging from saffron chicken to veal heart and calf liver. Mazagan will also provide mezzas, small plates ideal for sampling and sharing. A mezza sample includes Moroccan-style calamari, fried squid dressed with tzaziki and charmoula sauce. Slow-cooking stews served in Morrocan clay pots, called tagines, will also be available.
Although Morocco isn’t known for its booze culture, Mazagan will feature cocktails with the country’s flavors of saffron, rose water and hibiscus. Spice-rich Strega, an Italian herbal liqueur, will grace the cocktail list and showcase the country’s Mediterranean influence. Wines from the northern Moroccan city of Miknes will also be available, along with Moroccan beer.
Mazagan will also have a hookah lounge sectioned off by glass walls and food and drinks will be accessible via the private smoking area, as well as 10-12 shisha varieties such as blackberry, mint and blue mist.
Moroccan aesthetic is ever-present in the restaurant decor, as customers can experience a taste of the country through imported light fixtures and wood carvings. Designs and patterns manifested in the decorations have an “Arabesque Moorish look,” Reda says, and the carvings bear similarities to ones in old towns in Morocco and in the Alhambra, a palace in Spain.
Perhaps the most educational experience of all will be the open kitchen concept: Riyad built the restaurant around the charcoal grill so that customers may see how the food is prepared, and to “give contact with his guests; it’s more convivial and more into the Moroccan spirit,” Reda says. /Mazagan, 2901 Columbia Pike, Arlington