Tanjia for dinner (Oakland, review)

Last night it was a friend’s birthday and we went to Tanjia for dinner, a Moroccan restaurant located in Oakland. It was a good experience, though somewhat ruined by what we found out at the end of the evening.
Even though it was Saturday night, Tanjia was rather empty – there were only four or five parties other than us. I’m not sure why that is, it’s reasonably priced ($23 – $25 for a 5 course dinner), and it serves reasonably good food. The belly dancer is not very good (nobody bothered to look at her), but with so few Moroccan restaurants in this area, that doesn’t seem like a strong reason to keep away. Anyway, the place is definitely not popular.
Reviewers in Yelp have repeatedly complained about the bad service – but I thought the service was fine. The waitress was sort of sullen and at one point she was rude to the birthday girl – but we didn’t have to wait for service, water was refilled promptly and the dishes came at good intervals.
The menu was pretty much the same as the one they had when I visited in 2006. It’s a set menu that consists of a small bowl of lentil soup (which I enjoyed), pickled vegetables and an eggplant dip (yummy, but more about this later), bastilla (not the best, but good enough), an entree of your choice, and a dainty piece of fried banana as a dessert (very good, though oily). I had the lamb with honey, and I enjoyed it a lot. The lamb was tender and had a subtle sweet flavor that complimented it very well. Nobody else raved about their entrees, but I didn’t ask them how they liked them so I can’t quite comment. Desiree did say that she wasn’t happy that the bird advertised as “chicken” was actually cornish hen (which is much more bony and hard to eat). I don’t know why they aren’t honest about what they are serving.
The whole menu is supposed to be eaten with your hands (they bring warm water at the beginning and the end to wash them with), but as some of our group objected, they brought forks and knives. Much easier for the bony lamb and chicken.
The low point of the evening was to find out that the half-eggplants, used as a base for the brochettes/kebabs, are actually re-used into other dishes. We asked if we could take them home, and the waitress was quite honest in saying that they chop them up, cook them and serve them. That, of course, is illegal and quite gross. They could have fallen on the floor or been licked by previous guests, for all you know. This practice make me question what else they do in the kitchen to save costs. Well, perhaps I don’t want to imagine it. It’s sufficient to say that I would not go back.
Tanjia
4905 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland
(510)-653-8691
http://www.tanjias.com/

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