Yesterday two friends and I had dinner at Argana, a Moroccan restaurant whose chef was behind Moro, which I had tried about a year ago.
Argana is located in Xingfucun Zhong Lu, off of the bus stop from the Worker's Gymnasium, across from a Western grocery store called April Gourmet. Interestingly enough, over a year ago I had seen an apartment in the building right next to the restaurant, but didn't like it.
In any case, with the summer heat baking us all day, the somewhat cool breeze in the evening was perfect for al fresco dining.
We got a table right in front of a giant flat-screen TV for the quarter-final World Cup match of the Netherlands against Brazil (Brazil lost in a shock defeat, 2-1).
The menu is conveniently in front of you as a place mat, and we started off with the tapas platter, which was a delicious start. The rectangular plate featured roasted slices of fennel, mushrooms, roasted peppers, salad, slightly curried squid, and prawns.
And as an added bonus we got some bread to mop up the excess sauce and olive oil on the platter.
Then we had a beetroot salad with fried quail eggs and new potatoes that was underwhelming, but as it was hot out, it was a refreshing summer dish.
For our mains we shared the vegetarian tagine, of braised pumpkin, courgette, tomatoes, onions, and carrots in a tomato-based sauce heavily spiced with pepper that was fantastic. Another was the slow-cooked rabbit leg, the meat very tender.
A strange dessert is pigeon pie, minced meat in layers of pastry with rosewater and icing sugar dressed with finely sliced almonds. The small cake cut into quarters was plenty for each of us.
We also got some free entertainment courtesy of a magician named Rock, a young Chinese guy with faltering English but had quick hands. He transformed ordinary pieces of paper into 10RMB notes (we asked if he could change them into 100RMB notes), and could pick out the cards we had chosen from the deck of cards.
However, the service was very inconsistent, with some waiters understanding English, and others not knowing English or Chinese. Obviously some training is in order as these incompetent staff would try to hide or ignore diners flagging for their attention.
Nevertheless, the manager of Argana, a rotund boisterous fellow did his best to make his guests feel welcome, many of whom are regulars who came out to watch the exciting football match.
55 Xingfucun Middle Road