Moroccan Breeze certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.
I had, um, gotten wind of Breeze as a newly opened restaurant in South Orlando. But when my Google Maps app led me to the address on South Orange Blossom Trail, a strip mall anchored by the Apna Bazaar, the restaurant was nowhere in sight. I wondered if the signage on one of the eateries just hadn’t been changed to reflect new ownership. I also hoped that wasn’t the case because they looked pretty bedraggled. So I called the phone number for Moroccan Breeze and the gentleman who answered told me that he was located inside the Bazaar. So in I went.
Moroccan Breeze was located at the back of the building in a sort of minimalist food court, a couple of food vendors, including an Indian cafe next door, and a scattering of tables and chairs for customers to eat at. Just off to the side of the food court were the restrooms, designated for men and women, and prayer rooms, also so delineated.
If I hadn’t just spoken to someone on the phone I would have assumed that Moroccan Breeze was not open for business. The steam tables visible through the glass counter were empty of both food and steam. A lone woman could be seen over the back counter in the kitchen area. When she noticed me she nodded to someone else and a man came through the curtains in the doorway.
After looking over the menu board over the counter area, I ordered the Harira, a Moroccan soup, and a Lamb Tagine.
Harira is traditionally served to break the fast at Ramadan but is also a popular starter course year round. Although it often features a base of lamb broth, Moroccan Breeze’s is completely vegetarian. It had a tomatoey broth and chickpeas and lentils for the necessary beans. There were bits of onions as well and a sprinkling of parsley on top for extra flavor as well as an aesthetic appeal. The soup was evenly spiced, with hints of ginger and black pepper, and the generous portion could easily have served as an entree soup. And a bargain one at $2.99; serve this soup in downtown Orlando and you’ll probably expect to pay six bucks.
The Lamb Tagine featured a large shank, wonderfully tender from long cooking, covered in a gravylike sauce with lentils and slices of green olives. Although its appearance was congealed, the flavors, spicy and sweet with an appropriate gaminess from the lamb, were very good. As is traditional in Moroccan cuisine, the tagine was served only with bread. But I found myself wanting some couscous or rice to go with the sauce.
Both the soup and the lamb were served on colorful earthenware dishes, which was nice. It would have been nicer to have been able to eat the lamb with something more substantial than the flimsy white plastic utensils. (Curiously, the soup was served with a metal spoon.)
The gentleman who served the food was friendly and welcoming. I stood ready to pay for my food when I placed the order, but he didn’t seem concerned about taking my money right away. Instead, I paid after I had finished with my meal.
I was clearly an outsider in this community, but I did not feel self-conscious or that I was being eyed suspiciously. After my meal, I strolled through the market that anchors the Bazaar and was fascinated by the products and the displays, and by the men in the meat shop breaking down a whole goat carcass. I’m definitely coming back to do some grocery shopping.
And I’ll stop by Moroccan Breeze for one of the couscous dishes.
Moroccan Breeze is located inside the Apna Bazaar at 9404 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. There is no website although the restaurant has a Facebook page. The phone number is 407-930-5037.