THE SULTAN'S TENT & CAFÉ MOROC (49 Front East, at Church, 416-961-0601) Complete four-course prix fixe from $39.95 per person (à la carte lunch $30 with a $7.50 Pomtini), including all taxes and tip. Average lunch main: $15. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 am to 11 pm, Sunday 4 to 10 pm. Licensed. Access: four steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NN Rating: NN
More of a dining theme park than a sultry souk, this French Moroccan tourist trap should appeal to conventioneers and their wives up for some sanitized exoticism. The space is immaculate and tasteful, with no bothersome hookahs. The Sultan's guests swill pomegranate martinis while lounging on pillow-strewn divans separated by colourful sheers, and belly dancers perform twice a night to enhance the faux harem experience. Lunch is served up front in Café Moroc, where the decor includes fake palms and draft-producing ceiling fans described as Casablanca-style.
Right from the starter, Zaalouk ($5.95), it becomes apparent that attention to the finer details is lacking. This eggplant and cilantro purée is overwhelmed by tinned tomatoes and comes with a leaf each of endive and radicchio as well as sprigs of cress. A few pieces of flatbread or grilled pita would work better for spreading than the tough sliced baguette.
The Maftoul ($5.95) are a better appetizer choice. Referred to as Moroccan "cigars," these slender rolls of crisp pastry are filled with spiced beef ground to the consistency of falafel and drizzled with chipotle-laced aïoli tasting suspiciously like Hellmann's.
Since the Sultan's Feast ($14.95) - a plate of chicken, beef, lamb and veg kebabs - is unavailable, we try the Grilled Mergez Baguette ($9.95). Three finger-sized sausages with a honey-apricot glaze get lost in the bread. Served with a choice of frites and more ho-hum aïoli or fekkous salad (a bland blend of cucumber, tomato and cilantro), it could be a hit if the kitchen added more meat.