It takes more than a funky hookah and a couple of kitschy Moorish lanterns to make a memorable Moroccan eatery. The food must outshine any bold design attempts to distract. Thus is the case at Medina. Its North African fare has more scenic byways than your average ‘exotic’ dining options.
The beef tagine in sweet savory prune sauce is an entrée that will captivate you upon first visit. Or try the lamb tagine if beef isn't what's for dinner that night. But before satisfying your hunger with the sweet meat served in its classic conical ceramic dish, we recommend starting with the mixed platter.
"It demonstrates the idea of sharing,” said owner Sam Benoikken.
He’s passionate about his patrons having a good time. He has let diners move their ‘wine-down’ chats to the patio late into the night and refuses to throw people out just because it’s closing time. He says he “wants people to eat, share and have a good time.”
And the one room restaurant provides a pleasant mise en scène to do just that. White Fez tiles were flown in from Morocco to complete the oven’s original design. Subdued lighting gently illuminates the small space. Long booths resembling sexy harem beds line both sides of Medina. Hanging lanterns encased in iron spheres merge old and new design for a distinctly modern, lounge effect. Much like its namesake, the Moorish oven is the center of the restaurant. Its warmth is spread through the flavorsome food it cooks.
Benoikken said Medina’s ras-el-hanout spice blend (revered by many as a potent aphrodisiac) is the real deal. Steps are taken in various ways to ensure diners are noshing on food prepared with ingredients true to his heritage. For example, Benoikken’s sister ships the olives for the mixed platter from overseas and red chilies are imported from Sudan.
Food, family and friends are celebrated at Medina. Lithe locals can enjoy this distinctly Moroccan approach to life by capping off their meal with a signature cocktail. The pine-honey tea mixes vodka, green tea and cardamom-infused pieces of roast pineapple. The Medina Carpet Ride (Crown Royal, apricot brandy and lemon juice) helps customers get carried away, if only for an afternoon or happy hour or two … or three.
Medina is fun -- neither stuffy nor overly casual -- and is a welcome change of place for people who are curious about what exists past the techno color jumbo screens of Victory Plaza. That’s right, keep walking toward Victory Park. That’s where you’ll find this hideaway. It’s well worth the extra footsteps.
Mention this article and receive 20 percent off drinks and $5 valet with Medina validation.
Medina Oven & Bar
2304 Victory Park Lane