We've been transported to another world; a little nook off of a Moroccan medina. Down the stairs we descend, into one of the most exotically decorated restaurants in Toronto. Berbers are indigenous people to western North Africa, particularly Morocco. Having traveled there, I appreciate the authenticity of the beautiful decor...all of which is imported directly from source. Sweet, subtle rose water perfumes the air, while intricate artisanal wooden furniture, ceilings and panelling are a visual
Seating is in semi private rooms on colourful banquets around a large table, or at tables for two, like ours, within the central arcade of the restaurant. Impressed by the genuine design of the table and chairs, it's a good thing we don't have sore backs, as they are low, and require us to lean over. However, we have the best view in the house to watch live entertainment like African dancing.
Moroccan mint tea is not just a beverage but a service. In traditional manner, our server holds out a tea cup in one hand and with the other, raised high above, pours an exact stream directly into the glass. It's worth ordering for the stunning performance alone.
A 3-course dinner ($29.95) begins with a presentation of four salads, meticulously sectioned to provide clean and delicious samplings of Middle Eastern classics. Egyptian Tabouleh, Greek Salad, Sicilian Caponata, and Tunisian Bean Salad, are each chockfull of cool, freshly chopped vegetables and ingredients that are rustic, refreshing, and perfect for sharing. Our next course is determined by our selected Tagine. For the lamb, we receive a Briouat of tomatoes and marinated feta wrapped in two crisp triangular phyllo pastries. The fish entree is preceded by a seafood B'stilla of calamari, shrimp and whitefish simmered in spice, and baked in cumin-dusted phyllo. Lots of flavour is packed into these bundles...they certainly don't skimp on the shrimp. Knives are not served, we are told, as customarily, they want to encourage the use of our hands.
Tagines are generously portioned. Spiced and aromatic, braised lamb with dried apricots, pistachios, and couscous is slow cooked in a lamb broth, accompanied by traditional "Casablanca" vegetables. The Seafood Tagine of jumbo shrimp, calamari, mussels & whitefish is also slow cooked in a Moroccan tomato-curry, and served over saffron basmati rice. There is so much food and flavour, we feel like sultans.
Desserts are designed for sharing at $8.00 per person. A three tiered tower of house-made sweets includes candied fruits and nuts with chocolate dipped dried apricots, mini m'hanncha's...traditional almond pastries that look like a coiled snake...with honey infused orange blossom water and sultana raisins. It looks and tastes as decadent as it sounds.
Sure to be another Toronto hot spot, Berber Lounge is a very hip place for tea, dinner, drinks, or dreaming about Morocco.
Price: Reasonable prix fixe
Atmosphere: Eastern warmth
Surprise,Surprise: Great Cocktail hour specials!
Wheelchair Access: No
Hint: Check out a belly dance show