An increasingly diverse selection of restaurants is opening along the H Street Corridor, and the most recent addition offers an authentic taste of Morocco in an intimate setting. Alami Rahim’s Souk is less than a month old, and it’s already making a name for itself among the likes of Granville Moore’s, Taylor Gourmet and Sticky Rice. If you’re looking for traditional hummus or homemade baklava, Souk is worth a look.
On a recent Wednesday night, we headed down the block to seek out Souk. We read some positive reviews over at FrozenTropics, but we wanted to see for ourselves. I’m a sucker for good, rich hummus (got the taste for it at Perfect Pita in Old Town), and I’ve been trying to find a place that could match that creamy consistency. A few tastes in, I could tell that I was dealing with a real contender.
More from Morocco after the jump.
Souk is the second establishment to open up in its location, after the boutique Stella Bleu. While the clothing shop struggled to find a clientele on H Street, Souk is tapping into two ready audiences: the crowds drawn to H Street’s nightlife and local residents who have been clamoring for tasty but affordable dining options.
Inside, Souk gives little hint of the space’s former incarnation. The tiled rear wall and the hanging lanterns add touches that help to reinforce the Moroccan feel. The warm yellow walls and pillow-covered bench in the bay window up front contribute to the ambience. There’s only seating for about 24 people, but they also seemed to do a brisk carryout business while we waited for our order.
Rahim’s dishes come from his grandmother, a chef in Morocco. Her recipes, which emphasize fresh ingredients and simple preparations, fit right in with today’s dining trends. As a result, Souk’s flavors are at once classic and current.
That hummus I mentioned earlier avoids the occasionally gritty ground-chickpea texture of its competitors by blending in a healthy dose of tahini as well as some olive oil for added silkiness and lemon juice for an acidic counterpoint. The mixture is made fresh, and all you have to do is let it sit for a little while to see that there are no emulsifers or preservatives at work here: the olive oil will begin to separate itself out again, requiring you to stir up the puree to maintain its balance. You can watch Rahim give the pita paired with your hummus a quick turn on the grill in the open kitchen before it comes out to you blistered and warm.
I ordered fatoush, that classic salad of cucumbers, onions and tomatoes with shredded pita. When I got my order home, however, I realized I had been given a different salad altogether. Mixed greens were tossed with the cucumbers and the shredded pita I expected. They were joined by pine nuts and a pomegranate vinaigrette (complete with pomegranate seeds). The overall effect was a positive one, but it was a bit of a disappointment as I had a taste for fatoush.
I finished my meal with a Mergues from their sandwich menu. Two cigar-shaped lamb sausages came wrapped in a pita with roasted peppers, cucumbers, and zaalouk (a sauce that blends that familiar Mediterranean trio of eggplant, tomato and garlic). The sandwich, though a bit messy, was flavorful and filling. At only $8, it makes a great meal all by itself.
Throughout my meal, I found myself referring back to Souk’s menu to see if I had misread the descriptions of the dishes I ordered. I hadn’t. But when you’re working with fresh ingredients on as small a scale as Rahim is, some substitution of ingredients has to be forgiven as supply and availability dictate.
Before I headed home with my food, I had a chance to chat briefly with Rahim as he put together my order. He seemed genuinely pleased with the way his first month of business had gone, and he is eager to become a more active part of the H Street Corridor community. He’s already taken the smart step of keeping later hours on Fridays and Saturdays to cater to the late-night crowds. And he’s impressed with the local neighbors, as well. “One thing I really like about this area,” he said, “people take the time to share their thoughts on how you’re doing. They write about their experiences and give plenty of feedback. It’s a great feeling to be part of a community like this.”
We’ll definitely be heading back to Souk soon…it’s a welcome addition to the wide range of restaurants opening up in our area.