Spice Road Table at Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion

Spice Road Table at Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion

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Moroccan cuisine is one of the few cuisines that is generally not encountered at all here in Orlando. I think the only place right now would be at Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion, bringing authentic Moroccan cuisine to us in the form of Marrakesh restaurant and now, the newly constructed Spice Road Table, located just on the Morocco pavilion’s waterfront at the World Showcase.

When one thinks of Morocco, exotic images of sweeping desert sun sets and sultry spices at street market bazaars are conjured up, with a few images no doubt due to memories of the country portrayed in the Indiana Jones franchise.

Morocco Pavilion at Epcot's World Showcase
Morocco Pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase

Moroccan cuisine is extremely refined, known for being far more heavily spiced than Middle Eastern cuisine thanks to Morocco’s interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries along the ancient “Spice Road.”

This spice road stretched from the Spice Islands in Indonesia, and India, China, along the Arabian and Mediterranean coasts, and west towards Italy, Spain and finally, Morocco.

Hence the name Spice Road Table.

I recently visited for a media night event to preview the menu and check out the newly constructed restaurant. The concept is part of the new wave of “small plates” or “tapas” restaurants popping up through town, which works well here considering how many people come to Epcot with groups of friends ready for tasting delicious foods and drinks from around the world. The small plates make things easier to share and for more opportunities to taste different dishes in one sitting, while enjoying them all with a drink or two.

Spice Road Table
Spice Road Table
Menu at Spice Road Table - Epcot
Menu at Spice Road Table – Epcot

The new Spice Road Table restaurant has two seating areas: an extensive covered out door patio space  and a smaller in door area with long, sweeping windows providing a nice view of the Illuminations fireworks – make sure to get the middle table for the best view.

Outdoor seating at Spice Road Table
Outdoor seating at Spice Road Table
Indoor seating at Epcot's Spice Road Table
Indoor seating at Epcot’s Spice Road Table
Hummus and Spiced nuts
Hummus and Spiced nuts

Common spices used in Moroccan cuisine include karfa (cinnamon), kamoun (cumin), kharkoum (turmeric), skinjbir (ginger), libzar (pepper), tahmira (paprika), anise seed, sesame seeds, qesbour (coriander), and zaafran beldi (saffron) and common herbs include mint and maadnous (parsley). Although spices have been imported to Morocco for thousands of years, many ingredients — like saffron from Tiliouine, mint and olives from Meknes, and oranges and lemons from Fez — are home-grown.

I must admit that it was a bit difficult to detect what I hoped would be an abundance of spices in Spice Road Table’s dishes, but I am guessing they have to take it down a few notches to appease the masses. Here’s a tip though to bring the spice level up a notch – ask for harissa sauce.

Harissa sauce
Harissa sauce

Harissa is a Tunisian hot Chili pepper paste made from roasted red peppers, serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers and spices and herbs such as garlic paste, coriander seed, or caraway. Harissa may be the next “Sriracha” if they can get it out to more restaurants and markets.

The fried calamari, a very respectable calamari dish with just the right amount of crunchiness and flavor, gave off sparks of savory, spicy delights when lightly dipped in the red harissa sauce.

Fried Calamari at Spice Road Table
Fried Calamari at Spice Road Table
Fried Calamari at Spice Road Table
Fried Calamari at Spice Road Table

A tagine is a historically Berber clay pot dish – kind of like a North African slow cooker – traditionally cooked over coals or a stove. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of a natural clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. It’s used here for a few of the dishes, though none were served hot that I tried.

Tagines and spices for display
Tagines and spices for display
Spicy Garlic Shrimp in Tagine - more mild than spicy, but very fresh and tasty nonetheless. Loved the garlic butter on this dish.
Spicy Garlic Shrimp in Tagine – more mild than spicy, but very fresh and tasty nonetheless. Loved the garlic butter on this dish.
One of my favorite dishes - Cous cous
One of my favorite dishes – Cous cous with shrimp, mussels, squid

The main Moroccan dish most people are familiar with is couscous, the old national delicacy.  My favorite dish of the night was the above cous cous dish, though it’s not on the menu. The flavors of the fresh shrimp and mussels along with the texture of the cous cous all went together very well.

Chicken skewers, sadly, though predictably, were a bit too dry but still had good flavor
Chicken skewers, sadly, though predictably, were a bit too dry but still had good flavor

 

Beef skewers
Beef skewers
Lamb Sliders
Lamb Sliders – one of my other favorite dishes here – juicy and full of cucumber dill and a mint tzatziki between brioche buns
Rice stuffed Grape Leaves
Rice stuffed Grape Leaves
Spiced Flan at Spice Road Table
Spiced Saffron and Lemon Custard Flan at Spice Road Table

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A Decadent Chocolate Pyramid (with a creamy center) with Almond Ice Cream

Assorted Baklavas for Dessert
Assorted Baklavas for Dessert
Fox 35's David Martin appreciates the colorful drinks at Spice Road Table
Fox 35’s David Martin appreciates the colorful drinks at Spice Road Table
"Higher, Higher!" the staff shout as the waiter pours the tea from his pot
“Higher, Higher!” the staff shout as the waiter pours the tea from his pot
Mr. Abdoul has been with Epcot since he started as part of the student exchange program over 20 years ago
Mr. Abdoul has been with Epcot since he started as part of the student exchange program over 20 years ago

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Night scenes out side Spice Road Table - Belly dancing and Moroccan band
Night scenes out side Spice Road Table – Belly dancing and Moroccan band

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