Fez has finally opened

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It took eight months for David Leboutillier, Craig Nelson, and crew to renovate the old Lulu’s Bistro space on Maybank Highway, but they finally finished, and Fez, their French Moroccan restaurant, opened to the public last Friday. We’ve been hearing about this place for months, getting inside reports from Al di La’s John Marshall, who served as the consulting chef for the restaurant and traveled to Morocco to research the food. He worked with Chef Bryan Lindsay to create the mouth-watering menu.

The menu is short but appears rather rich in flavor — saffron, cumin, ginger, pepper, turmeric, olives, preserved lemons. Leboutillier seems hell bent on exposing our sheltered palates to the world of flavor out there. He’s brought us French (Rue de Jean), Spanish (Raval), Mexican (Taco Boy), and now Moroccan.

The menu kicks off with “Petits Plats,” with nibbles like Berber Spiced Almonds, Harira (Moroccan chickpea soup), and Kefta (grilled skewers of spiced veal). The sandwich section has three choices: grilled marguez (baguette with harissa), Croque Madame (ham and gruyere cheese), and hamburger.

Apparently, a good burger has a place on any of Leboutillier’s menus, even if it’s a French-Moroccan one.

The star of Fez will surely be the tagines (stews), which feature braised meats like lamb, chicken, or beef and such ingredients as olives, onions, figs, apricots, golden raisins, and almonds. They all come served with cous cous.

A smattering of more traditional French dishes like cassoulet, confit du canard, and soupe du poisson round out the menu, which finishes up with chocolate and sesame creams, north African struedel, and baklava. Yum.

Fez is open for dinner nightly and closed on Sundays. The bar will stay open until 2 a.m. I didn’t ask about signature Moroccan drinks, but can only assume their cocktail menu must have at least a few inspired choices.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got my reservations set for Saturday night. (843-406-2767) Anyone out there been already?

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