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Rashel: Authentic Marrakesh cuisine in the Ashkelon marina

SC 02/09/2021


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I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Morocco twice – once with two of my sons to Marrakesh and Casablanca as part of a study cruise around the world, and once with my husband to Fez and Chefchaouen, also known as the Blue City. I loved Morocco, the scents, the colors and the food, although I was limited in my choices because of kashrut. I also couldn’t understand the Arabic despite being proficient in Palestinian Arabic, but that’s another story.
A recent visit to Rashel in Ashkelon had me feeling like I was back in Morocco. I’m sure you’re all wondering whether I really went all the way to Ashkelon from Jerusalem just for dinner. The answer is yes and no. My youngest son Mishael is 17 (you know how everyone should get one easy child and it should be the last one when you’re already worn out? That’s my youngest son), and has spent most of the summer studying for the psychometric exam.
I decided we should have a “yom kef” together before the summer ends. He was hesitant to take a full day off (yes, he’s that kind of kid) so we compromised on a half-day. We met friends who were vacationing in Ashkelon for a few hours at the beach and then headed for Rashel.

I had heard about the restaurant from my long-time friend and fellow foodie Matt Futterman, who lives in Ashkelon, and I know that if Matt recommends something it’s worth checking out.
Rashel is right on the marina, a lovely place to sit at night once it cools down. We sat outside enjoying the breeze although there is also seating inside. The plates and serving utensils are all from Morocco. The music is Arab, but not too loud, adding to the atmosphere.
Mishael and I were seated next to two couples who looked to be in their 60s.
“How’s the food?” I asked them.
“Delicious, but some of it is a little spicy,” one woman answered.
“I ask because I’m writing a restaurant review for The Jerusalem Post.”
“Really?” asked her husband. “Well, do I have a story or you. Do you remember that The Jerusalem Post’s [offices were] bombed in early 1948? Well, one person [who] was killed in that bombing [was] my grandfather Haim Farber. I’m named after him.”

 Rashel serves authentic Marrakesh cuisine in the marina (credit: Ilan Gur) Rashel serves authentic Marrakesh cuisine in the marina (credit: Ilan Gur)

And all of these years later, we’re both having dinner in Ashkelon. Now for the food. Chef Dudu Ben Abu, 27, first brought us a selection of salads (NIS 53). They included an eggplant cream, which I loved, and was not spicy at all, Moroccan olives, which had just a hint of spiciness, harissa, tehina, and a dark red matboucha (tomato and red pepper salad) (NIS 12) that he called “Moroccan gold.” It was spicy but delicious.
Ben Abu learned to cook from his Moroccan grandmother Rashel, who was from Marrakesh. He said he wants to connect the food of Morocco with the world of fine dining. The menus, by the way, are only in Hebrew, but the staff can translate if needed.
We tried a selection of appetizers. The Grandma Rashel cigars (NIS 54) were three long cigars, stuffed with spicy meat and deep fried. They were simply delicious. There was also a pastilla (NIS 58) of phyllo dough stuffed with boneless thighs and dried fruit that had me dueling with my son over the last bite.
There was a beautiful pâté with a wine sauce that came with a pear braised in wine sauce (NIS 61), and then came a dish that really made me hesitate – moah, or brain. Called “Veal Brain from Mamma Shula” (NIS 58), the brain was cooked in beef stock, with hummus, red pepper, garlic, spicy pepper and coriander, served with toasted challah.
“I’m not sure I can eat this,” I told Mishael. “I’ve never had brain.”
“Come on, Mom, it’s delicious,” he said, as he spooned up a taste.
I hesitantly put a piece of the brain on my plate and cut off a small piece. It was actually quite tasty, but when Adi, the manager saw how I was eating it, he rushed over to the table.
“Don’t be so Ashkenazi,” he said. “Take a piece of bread, drag it through the sauce, grab a piece of the meat, and put it all in your mouth at the same time!”
I followed his advice, and he was right. The dish was delicious, and all of the components came together beautifully.
By this point, I was full, but I couldn’t leave without trying the vegetarian couscous, which is what I ate almost every day in Morocco. This couscous bore only a passing resemblance to the packaged kind I sometimes make. In this couscous every grain was distinct and it was clearly homemade.
If you’re really adventurous you can try stuffed spleen (NIS 110). There are also quite a few grilled meat and fish dishes.
Rashel
9 Hanamal Marina Mall, Ashkelon
Phone: 08-930-9666
Hours Sunday-Thursday noon-midnight, Friday until 2 hours before Shabbat, Saturday night an hour after Shabbat ends.
Kashrut: Rabbanut Ashkelon, most meat is Chalak.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

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SC

Co-Host for Coffee Mouth Scarecrow Show. Retired NAVY Chief/Flag Writer Psalms 118:24 This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

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