It’s Paris, in the mid ’70s, and you want a special restaurant meal that isn’t French. It’s likely you’ll book a table at Le Timgad. The restaurant, opened in 1971, was one of the first places in the city to serve Moroccan food to a predominantly French clientele, and today it’s a virtual time capsule from this era, with stuffy waiters, opulent furnishings, and menu items that haven’t changed in decades.
Upon entering Le Timgad, the first thing you’ll see is a gurgling fountain in the lobby. You’ll then be escorted by a tuxedo-clad waiter to the tile-walled dining room with its sultry lighting and soothing soundtrack. Your table will already be loaded with a series of appetizers: two types of olives, carrots seasoned with cumin, and pickled vegetables. For the full 1970s Moroccan-Parisian experience, the obligatory order is couscous princier, a dish that was most likely created in France to appeal to French diners.
It starts with a plate of couscous, which a waiter will top with vegetables braised in a spiced broth. You’ll be asked if you want to supplement this with chickpeas studded with raisins, and a spicy sauce. Finally, you’ll be presented with a silver platter of skewered grilled beef and merguez (spicy lamb sausage), and another with braised lamb shank and a fist-sized meatball in a tomatoey sauce.
The tuxedos, ostentatious presentation, and decadent surroundings may hint at dinner theater, and are admittedly over the top, but the food at Le Timgad delivers, with the restaurant taking particular pride in its hand-rolled couscous, a world away from the stuff in a box.
Know Before You Go
Even after more than 50 years in business, Le Timgad remains a tough table to score, and reservations are obligatory.