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Faouzi's Restaurant

Mint teaUpdate 2/7/11: confirmed - Faouzi's is closed. Thanks for the heads up, Edith.

In a word: Something for everyone, even if it's not specifically Moroccan.

The specs: #0567  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Wisconsin State JournalYelp, Isthmus; listing at Eat Drink Madison; chatter at The Daily Page; official web site, Facebook, Faouzi's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Latest Faouzi's news and reviews

Bill ate a cup of hrira and the Moroccan tagine.
JM ate the steak wrap with a lemonade.
Nichole ate a cup of hrira and the Moroccan couscous with mint tea.
Tracy ate a cup of hrira and the chicken kebab with mint tea.
We split some bacon cheese fries and three desserts: sifaa, baklava, and a slice of raspberry cheesecake.
The bill was about $60, or $15/person, plus tip.
Bill, JM and Nichole gave Faouzi's an A-; Tracy gave Faouzi's a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Bill helped us cut right to the chase, because Faouzi's biggest challenge is evident:

Besides the depth of competition, there's also the limited selection of prime location, and Faouzi's, located on the frontage road of the Beltline Highway (12/18) between Midvale and Seminole Highway, suffers tremendously from this.

Faouzi's has done wonders with the space, however, and inside it's as comfortable as the comparable Husnu's. The atmosphere is about as far from the old grotty pub Blarney Stone as you can get, and we don't just mean the geel CD on the stereo (we knew we were with the right companions when Tracy ID'd the exact Amr Diab album). Dishes reminiscent of church fellowship halls added to the charm, and the daily specials increased the homey feel of the place. We were to discover that the wildly diverse menu was impressively calculated, with portion sizes matching price quite well.

Two of us started with mint tea, made from fresh mint leaves and sugar served in an old fashioned glass, which left a small window of time between too hot to hold and too cold to drink. Potholders or cups with handles would have helped shield our tender fingers, but as David Rakoff said (if not first, then way before Twitter), this is a first world problem.

HriraBread and oilBacon cheese fries

The excellent complimentary bread was light and airy, served with oil topped with a dash of cheese and fresh ground pepper. Our bacon cheese fries were an utterly un-Moroccan appetizer, but we got them anyway: nacho cheese and bacon bits over foodservice fries were "tasty in the way that things covered in nacho cheese and crumbled bacon generally are," opined Tracy.

Our hrira seemed to Nichole to be nearly identical to the fine soup once served at Maza, a satisfying, smooth tomato base with lentils and small flour noodles. Bill found it tangy and flavorful, and just the right amount for a first course.

The chicken kebab was a little disappointing, thought Tracy:

The spices on the chicken were strong and a little hot, making me dive for the soft pita bread or the rice after each bite. The rice and the accompanying salad were very good. This is not the best chicken kebab I've eaten in Madison...

...but she and Bill did say they'd come back, as would we, in a heartbeat. Bill's favorable impression came as much from the friendly and helpful, if green, staff ("top marks") as the Moroccan tagine with lamb and mixed vegetables. It was tasty and tender, and he said he'd definitely order it again.

Tagine

Nichole got the Moroccan couscous - a veritable mountain of fluffy, buttery, spicy stuff under a pile of tender squash, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, bites of seared chicken, onions, chickpeas and more in a sweet melange of spices with a slow-building heat.

Couscous

JM's steak wrap seemed to balance on the precipice overlooking weird American cuisine. The steak was indeed tender and toothsome with some North African spicing, and served as it was with rice it seemed all the more Moroccan.  But rolled in with tomatoes and iceberg lettuce was plain old mayonnaise, and flour tortillas don't seem very Moroccan either. But for what ended up being off the Amero end of the menu, it was really quite good.

Steak wrap

Desserts also aimed to please everyone. The raspberry cheesecake was delicious, if from a box. A piece of pistachio baklava was a little bit under-honeyed and lightly cinnamoned. 

BaklavaSifaaCheesecake

The most intriguing dessert was the sifaa (also called seffa), or angel hair pasta tossed with butter and topped with powdered sugar and almonds. It tasted exactly how it sounds. Our server noted that this was the dish's debut at Faouzi's, after some campaigning by members of the staff to add this comfort food to the menu. Something about things a mom might make - completely free of irony, remove, or marketing - broke our hearts just a bit. It also reinforced that the kitchen is willing to expand and adjust.

At this point, impressed with the earnestness of the whole experience that was Faouzi's, we were ready to go out and proselytize. The bacon fries, wraps, and box cheesecake are there to make the Moroccan stuff happen, OK? So just go already. You'll find something you like.

Comments

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I absolutely love this place. We've dined in once and taken out once (last night, actually). Anyone could make a meal from the sauce sampler - couscous, guacamole and hummus (the cilantro averse will want to avoid this though - it's rather cilanterrific, which I love, but understand is quite polarizing). I'm a sucker for a good lamb kebab, and theirs didn't disappoint. My other half's eyes rolled to the back of his head with joy upon tasting the Moroccan coffee. Service was very good, waitstaff is very friendly, and they all seem genuinely interested in whether you're enjoying your meal. One of our new favorites.

This place is in my backyard and I love it. The spicing is aggressive, but it all goes down so easily. Plus, it's enough food for at least two or three days worth of lunches. Glad to see all of the great reviews, and I truly hope that people discover this new jewel (incidentally, I notice nobody ever condemns Bonfyre or Tony Franks as a poor location for being in essentially the same neighborhood).

That's a GREAT location. Easy to reach via the Beltline from almost anywhere in town in less than 15 minutes. And there's parking. Would be a great stop on the way out of town after Badger football games this fall. Or before driving out to the Star Cinema in Fitchburg. You do have to double back from Todd Drive if you're coming from the West...or take Verona Rd to the frontage. No exits to/from Beltline west of Seminole...only east.

I went here last night. The soup was excellent. We got sauces appetizer - guacamole, hummus and couscous. Guacamole may not be Moroccan, but they make it very well. I got the falafel. It was so flavorful. Unfortunately, they were out of the bastilla/pastilla/b'stilla. Todd got the chicken curry, which he enjoyed.

We will go back. We are just not in that area very often. I guess I will have to make up excuses to go to Home Depot.

The tagine is really good, too (I got that - and my husband got the curry). They were out of bastilla when we were there, too :-(

I took the work gang here for my birthday lunch, and was very happy with it (as were most of the party, it seems). I found the Moroccan tea delightful, the bread and sauce very tasty, and most suprisingly, the split soup was extremely good. My sicilian sandwich (chicken, tomato sauce, peppers, mushrooms, spices) was good, but very messy. That was only a bit of a letdown because I had such high expectations following the three amazing starters. Thanks for the recommendation!

Faouzi's Restaurant is no more. We tried to have dinner there on Saturday, 2/5/11 and found the building empty. Needs to be added to the list of closed restaurants. Sad--it was a nice little place but the location wasn't good.

N-O-O-O!! I loved that place!!!

NEWSFLASH!! Ahmed Faouzi is over at Lilliana's now. In fact, they're having a Moroccan theme night tonight (7/19/11). So glad to hear he's still in the area!!

Im Zahiya Faouzi, Ahmed daughter.
He loves reading the review and he highly
appreciates it. Hes thinking about opening the resturant again hopefully. He closed down the resturant for many reason but also cause of location. He currently worked at Lucky's. Have any questions email me at zahiya.f170 at gmail.com or zahiya.faouzi at gmail.com.

thank you.

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