Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
The Best Restaurant in the World
Rich: Epcot’s Morocco looks like a set of a street market, and it smells like incense, jasmine, and Jasmine, the Aladdin princess who was there to take pictures with visitors.
Caity: Disney has made incredible strides in artificial scents (For more on this confusing development, please see our reviews of Spaceship Earth and Soarin’), yet it employs the technology only sparingly.
Rich: Morocco was the most impressive not at all accurate approximation we’d seen thus far.
Caity: Morocco is the only World Showcase pavilion that is sponsored by the country’s government, and in which the country’s government aided in the design. I suspect, for this reason, it is fleshed out in a way the other Epcot countries aren’t—full of little nooks and reveals. It looks fantastic, especially at dusk, which is when we arrived.
Rich: It reminded me of the movie Caligula in scale. Also in raciness!
Caity: Our reservation was for Restaurant Marrakesh, a place I last visited with my extended family nearly 20 years ago. I don’t remember what I ate on that visit (most likely pizza, back in the hotel room), but I vividly recall the paralyzing fright of being asked to dance with the belly dancer in the center of the restaurant.
Rich: Once an hour in Restaurant Marrakesh, a belly dancer displays her gifts—those she was born with and those she acquired along the way—to the diners. She smiled the whole time, dancing like no one was watching, which was pretty much the case given the tepid response from her audience.
Caity: People paid more attention when the little girls were invited (forced) to join in. One of these little ladies was much better than the other:
Rich: She wore a sheer scarf over her midsection during the first song, which I figured was just Disney’s way of cleaning up belly dancing. I was delighted to see her remove it during the second number.
Caity: You and all the other dads.
Caity: You and all the other dads.
Rich: These were not modelesque specimens, but beefy, handsome, men. Even the ones that weren’t drop-dead gorgeous were handsome in a crumple-me-into-a-ball-and-do-whatever-you-want-with-me kind of way.
Caity: I think the main thing keeping Morocco down was the lighting. My advice to Morocco: Turn out the damn lights!
Rich: Yeah, I agree. The fixtures were ornate yet oppressive. They gave the dining room below the look of a big cafeteria with people in mouse ears apathetically eating meat off sticks.
Caity: When we entered the dining room, I noticed two women in full-body coverings. One was wearing a chador. The other, right next to us, was sporting a pristine white Disney table cloth around her shoulders and chest, I guess because she was cold.
Rich: It was freezing in there! I kind of wanted to request a tablecloth cloak for myself.
Rich: A taste of the Moroccan tundra, here in the States.
Caity: In addition to the customers’ dress, which ranged from clothing to household furnishings, I was also surprised by the number of children in this particular restaurant. Food-wise, it treats them much the same as vegetarians: in a manner that is not particularly welcoming. (Actually, kids who do eat meat might have more options at Restaurant Marrakesh than adults who don’t; children 3 to 9 can order off a menu that includes both chicken nuggets and kefta on a hamburger bun.)
On our waiter Jamal’s recommendation, I started off the meal by sipping on a “Marrakesh Express,” which he identified as being the sweetest alcoholic drink. A Marrakesh Express is made with Don Q coconut rum, orange juice, and pineapple juice, topped with Coruba dark rum, and garnished with a maraschino cherry and a date. I generally end up with a version of this drink (with different garnish) at basically every restaurant or bar I visit in my everyday life. Does it have a name? Or should I just call it “a Marrakesh Express”?
Rich: I think it’s sometimes called a rum punch? But it should definitely be rebranded. All aboard the Marrakesh Express to Vomitville.
For my drink, I got a Tangier’s Breeze (Vodka, pineapple juice, topped with Midori). It tasted like vitamins.
Before I forget: A handsome fellow named Noureddine filled our glasses with water (not a euphemism) throughout the meal. His name was printed in full on his tag, but you mean to tell me that poor, sweet Rhoilen from Mexico couldn’t get her whole name on hers? Something is amiss.
Caity: Something is rotten in the Epcot mini-nation of Denmark, the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen. [A/N: Epcot has no Denmark.]
For my meal, I got the extremely vegetarian unfriendly “Taste of Morocco - Marrakesh Feast,” which truly deserves both names. This feast consisted of harira soup (“A hearty soup with Tomatoes, Eggs, Lentils, and Beef”), a beef brewat roll (“Layers of thin Pastry stuffed with seasoned minced Beef, fried and sprinkled with Cinnamon”), a mixed grill plate (“Tenderloin of Beef Shish Kebab, Lamb Merguez Sausage, Marinated Chicken Kebab, served with fresh Herb-roasted Potatoes”), and “Assorted Moroccan Pastries” for dessert. Everything was good. Every damn thing.
The soup was so filling that it could have constituted the whole feast. (It was also hot enough to melt steel.) It was served alongside something that looked like an egg roll covered in powdered sugar and cinnamon. This, as it turned out, was a ground beef roll covered in powdered sugar and cinnamon. I didn’t love the combination of sugar with meat (and ended up knocking most of it off), but I didn’t hate it. Sugar and meat are my favorite things to eat, but I prefer them separate.
Rich: I really liked that your meal explored beef in two of its three states: water and solid. If they could engineer a beef air, Restaurant Marrakesh would.
Caity: I ate about half the soup and then asked Jamal if I could take the rest to go. He told me he would just bring me a brand new full cup of soup to go when it was time to settle our bill! That made me want to try that eat-half-can-I-have-the-rest-of-this-to-go? trick with everything: Bite of ground beef roll; can I have the rest of this to go? Sip of soda; can I have the rest of this to go?
By the time the entree portion of my feast came out, I was ready to take myself to go. The kebabs were almost without exception delicious, but I was already too full to enjoy them. (Bear in mind, we had been eating all day prior to dinner.) I gave the lamb sausage the old college try but only ended up confirming once again that I do not like the taste of lamb. I wanted that to go, but not home with me—it did seem well-prepared though. The “herb roasted Potatoes” that accompanied my entree were straight-up steak fries, but I appreciated Morocco pretending otherwise. The assorted pastries: Two pieces of baklava, and one long tube that looked and tasted exactly like baklava, but in tube form. These were tasty as well; not soaking wet with honey like I like them, but good. If they had cost $42 (the total cost of my Feast), I would have been like “What!!!!” Since they were included as part of a larger meal, it was fine.
Rich: I got the vegetable couscous, which I’m sure sounds boring because it was boring. That being said: the vegetables were steamed to flavor maximization and the couscous was fluffy. I wish it had been spiced with something (anything!) but it was still very good and I ate all of it. I thought of it as comfort food, I guess, because I find blandness comforting. Of course I do: I visited Epcot on my own free will.
At this point, I was eating out of habit, anyway. We had structured our eating schedule so as to never be hungry or even want to look at food, even when it was in front of us. A piece of food could either sit in my stomach or turn it, whatever.
Is Everything OK?
Questions About the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Caity: Yes. I would go back to make my kids belly dance. I can’t wait to meet them and then make them belly dance.
Rich: I would only go back to watch you eat a giant feast, Caity. Don’t worry about me. I already ate, thanks.
Is it a good first date spot?
Caity: No. No one should see me eat that amount on a first date.
Rich: Yes, you and your date will be so cold that you’ll have no other choice to cuddle him or her to keep warm. Basically, you’re well on your way to first base the minute you set foot in Restaurant Marrakesh.
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Caity: While the larger mini-Morocco is Jasmine-scented and romantic, Restaurant Marrakesh has all the ambience of a hospital cafeteria. Good place to have an affair with cardiac surgeon who’s married to the job.
Rich: It’d be a good place to film a culturally insensitive porno featuring brown men. If you squint hard enough, that looks like an affair.
Is it a good place to bring the cryogenically frozen corpse of Walt Disney?
Caity: Yes, there is NO CHANCE of him thawing out.
Rich: Yes, you know that the one thing he’s been dying to do while dead is get up and belly dance.