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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Shokran: Authentic Moroccan Cuisine

Restaurant Review


I drive by this easy to miss restaurant almost daily. It is located just east of the Blue Line "L" stop/Kennedy Expressway on/off ramp and Irving Park Rd (Chicago). After finding a parking spot on the street [and yes, you do have to drop silver into those thieving parking meter devices that Mayor Daily ("The Little") and Mayor Rahm Emanuel ("Little Dancer" AKA Click Here for Nicknames) have given us as a legacy of their mismanagement of the city's resources].  However, in this instance, paying this tribute is worth the price as you will note later in this review.

When we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted fairly quickly by a smiling young man who said "hello" in a pleasant voice and then asked if we made a reservation. When we told him no that we hadn't, after asking us to waiting for a moment, he went to the back to check if he could accommodate us this evening. About 5 minutes later, he returned to tell us he did have seating available if we didn't mind sitting towards the front of the restaurant. We said no problem and were immediately seated by the front window. When I checked their website, they did not say anything about making a reservation as a good idea, however after this experience I would recommend you do so.

The menu has an extensively selection of  entree awesomeness with the highest priced item being $18 for their mixed grill (which I chose). Appetizers are $5-$8, while sides run about $5 with desserts being $6.

We started with marinated black olives on pita and a bowl of  Harira soup (tomato soup with lentils, chickpeas, rice parsley cilantro and various spices). The soup was a very pleasing color with lots of evident "goodies" swimming within. The spices were not overwhelming and added just the zing necessary to make it dance upon the tongue. (of course if you are one of those individuals with a genetic predisposition towards not liking cilantro, you might want to order a different appetizer). The marinated black olives on pita (there was also a spicy hot sauce served separately which had some heat but was not overpowering) was very flavorful and a most welcome beginning to this meal.

When the entrees arrived, my wife and I were ready. She ordered the Lamb Marrakesh (lamb in a stew of peas and artichoke with various  Moroccan seasonings) while I had the Mixed Grill (chicken and lamb kebabs; kefa (a beef meatball/burger) and merguez (a sausage of ground beef, lamb). This was also served with rice pilaf and grilled veggies.

 Lamb Marrakech
The Lamb Marrakech practically fell off of the bone with the stew being a very strong supporting medium. There was a perfect balance between the natural flavor of the lamb and the wonderful spices and vegetables in the mix. No one flavor or taste dominated, but all got along with and supported each other nicely.

The Mixed Grill allowed me to try many of the items offered on this diverse menu all at the same time. The lamb keba was done perfectly with a sightly red center. The chicken kebab soaked up the spices nicely so it was also most enjoyable with the chicken adding a nice balance to the meal. I didn't quite know what to expect of the Kefa (a ground beef, lamb burger).

Mixed Grill
What I experienced was a juicy  patty that also supported the other items on this diverse plate. Finally, although not my favorite item on the plate, the ground beef/lamb sausage (Merguez), which is made in-house, was an appropriate addition to this menu selection.

During the meal, we drank Moroccan Mint Green Tea, that was served very hot in a silver teapot poured into a small glass with a twig of mint as well as orange blossoms and honey. I usually do not like sweetness in my tea, but this was SO good that as soon as
Green Mint Tea
we finished off the first teapot, I ordered another to go with dessert.

There were several choices for dessert, but Sylvia and I decided to share the Poached Pear in Hazelnut Cake. Within just a few minutes absolutely nothing was left of the dessert but a fine memory of a satisfying ending to the meal





Poached Pear Hazelnut Cake
Things you MUST know

This is a BYOB restaurant.

They DO NOT accept credit cards (an ATM is available to withdraw cash).

Although not stated on their website, I would recommend that you make a reservation.

The outside appearance gives you the impression it is much smaller than it actually is. They have additional seating areas in the back. This is perfect for small groups and parties who wish to celebrate a special occasion.

Maino's "M" Ratings

Ambiance: 4/5 M's (The decor is exactly what you would expect of a Moroccan restaurant. The seating is comfortable and not too closely spaced. Although you could easily hear your neighbors conversations, the room never became so loud that you couldn't carry on a conversation of your own.  We were greeted quickly when we came in and thanked as we left.)

Service: 4/5 M's (Service was appropriately attentive. You never felt rushed. I would strongly suggest that you be ready to truly enjoy your meal and those companions with you. They offer a slower pace of dining that is often in conflict with our McDonalds Fast Food World Mentality. Take a moment to savor and enjoy. I put enough money into the meter for 90 minutes of dining, the experience took closer to 2 hours. This was a good thing (and I did not get a parking ticket!!)

Food: 5/5 M's  (As you could easily tell from my descriptions above, I liked all that we consumed. Next time, I will order the Chicken Bastilla appetizer (it looked and smelled incredible), the Sweet Lamb Couscous, another dessert (they had one that was chocolate that sounded wonderful) and of course, lots of Moroccan Mint Green Tea.)  Since the number of incredibly good restaurants in my neighborhood (Portage Park/Six Corners) is growing exponentially, it's relatively easy to miss visiting various gustatory establishments just a mile or so away. Do not miss out on this one!

Overall Rating: 4+/5 M's  (Make a reservation, go eat, enjoy!)


Shokran Authentic Moroccan Cuisine Restaurant
4027 W. Irving Park Rd
Chicago, Il 60641
773-427-9130


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