Rarely does a new restaurant get a second chance to impress. Perhaps the dramatic exit of opening chef Najat Kaanache helped draw attention to the fledgling restaurant. Kaanache, a modernist chef who’d breezed into Dallas as a consultant to Stephan Pyles’ Stampede 66, was running the kitchen. Born in Spain of Moroccan descent, Kaanache made a name for herself apprenticing in famous kitchens all over the world and writing an eclectic blog about her travels as “The Pilgrim Chef.” She left Stampede 66 and, during her short stint at Private Social, gained the reputation of a flaky and fiery leader who claimed to have invented the cronut.
At Souk, Kaanache’s menu was a mash-up of Spanish paellas and Moroccan items, all of which were overly illustrated with swishes, swirls, dashes, and dots of sauces and oils. When she worked the room, she made people uncomfortable by butting into conversations to talk about her food.
In late February, owner Yaser Khalaf and Kaanache broke up. After Kaanache left town, Khalaf reinstated a more Moroccan menu. Khalaf is a talented veteran restaurateur. Since he moved to Dallas 15 years ago, he has owned and operated Medina Oven & Bar and Baboush, which he has since sold to his former partner Sam Benoikken; Farnatchi Pizza & Wine; Ketchup Burger Bar; and LA Gourmet Pizza. When Trinity Groves started taking applications for restaurant concepts, Khalaf decided he wanted to do another Moroccan restaurant.
Moroccan-spiced cocktails set the tone. The Marrakesh Express is an interesting blend of gin and apricot and lemon juices, with a long cinnamon finish. I found the Casablanca Mint Tea a tad more refreshing on a warm spring evening. The drink is made with vodka, green tea, orange-blossom water, and touches of fresh mint and lemon. Compared to other cocktail dens in town, these are a bargain at $8.