Background: Fez native Hamaza Seqqat opened Ajbani in Plaza Midwood this July, where he and Johnson and Wales graduate Chef Craig Linthicum are serving up traditional Moroccan cuisine.
Order This: Moroccan cuisine is centered around couscous and tajine (slow cooked stew) dishes. We got the Rubbed Chicken and Apricot, served over couscous and vegetables, and the Beef Tajine with Prunes and Almonds. The beef tajine was the standout of the two meat dishes--the meat is marinated and slow cooked with caramelized onions, honey prunes, and toasted almonds. We also tried a vegetarian dish, the Hearty Veggie with Chickpeas over couscous. The vegetable dish and the chicken dish were almost indistinguishable, save the chicken, of course. Both had the same aromatic spices like saffron and tumeric, similar vegetables and dried fruits. While they were both good, we probably would stick with just one dish in the couscous category in the future so that we could order more varied items from the appetizers and accompaniments. Their Lamb Briouats were delicious--they are a light and savory fried puff pastry served with their Harissa Yogurt Sauce. The other appetizer we tried was the Eggplant Zaalouk, which is roasted eggplant dip with tomato, garlic, and cilantro, served with pita bread. This dip is more like a chutney--large pieces of chilled, marinated eggplant. It was good, but the pita served with it was subpar--and a little stale. For the sides, we got the Candied Onion & Raisin salad (onions candied with apricots, raisins, date sugar, rosewater, and slivered almonds), and more Harissa yogurt sauce. The salad was excellent on its own, or on top of any of the other dishes. Highly recommend.
Dessert: Baklava, baklava, baklava. We were too full to eat this right away (see the obscene amount of food depicted above), so we saved it for another hour where we unabashedly broke it out at Thomas Street Tavern over drinks. This was by far my favorite dish from Ajbani, and if that's wrong, I don't wanna be right. The baklava is heavy on the rosewater and honey, light on the nuts. The portion is huge, and five of us split it without feeling deprived.
Drink: Their drink selection is small, and no alcohol is served. It's just water, soft drinks, and bottled tea. We were wanting some traditional Moroccan mint tea in a bad way. However, we did have the drink of the fall with our baklava at Thomas Street Tavern: Smith & Forge hard cider with a shot of Goldschlager. Doooo it.
Atmosphere: Ajbani is technically take-out only right now, but they do have a few tables inside and outside if you want to eat there, which we did. The decor is minimal as the space is small, but it does have some cool Moroccan tile and other accents.
Northern African Hospitality: The guy working the counter was very helpful in giving us recommendations and checked in on us, even though there is no table service. This place is located in a shopping center that doesn't exactly scream fine cuisine, but the food is legit and every one of their five tables was filled with families dining.
Frankie's Notes: I swear we were eating with three other people that night; except two of them didn't show up; basically we ate a lot; carrying and eating your dessert at a second location; Jason wants a Moroccan tile bathroom; super cute hipster Midwood/Noda families are the new prototype; don't judge a restaurant by its shopping center.
Parking: Parking can get a little crowded, but it seems like you can also park next door near Three Amigos, official paper signs discouraging you notwithstanding. User assumes all risk.
Ranking: 3 out of 5
*Update* Closed as of August 2016 as the owners search for a larger, full-service restaurant
2903-C Central Ave
Charlotte, NC 28205
Tuesday - Sunday: 4:00pm - 10:00pm