I have the worst sense of timing. For starters, I have no rhythm when it comes to music and dancing. I’m shocked that no one has ever tried to pull me off the floor to administer CPR after seeing my poorly coordinated, convulsive dance moves. Even in Las Vegas, I’m the one leaving a slot machine one pull before the jackpot. As a matter of fact, right after I submitted my last article ranting about a lack of Middle Eastern restaurants in Hawaii, my friend Kamal Jemmari contacted me to invite me to a private tasting of his new Moroccan and Lebanese restaurant. I had written a story about Kamal’s first establishment Shogunai Tajine, but had to replace it two days before the publication went to press because of a ruling that the condo in which the café was located no longer authorized non-residents to enter. Again, bad timing.
Luckily for me, others have better luck with timing. After months of meticulous planning, Kamal and his business partner Youssef Dakroub—owner and chef of the Xtreme Tacos food truck—decided to open up Kan Zaman. Unlike Shogunai Tajine, Kan Zaman represents a venue accessible to all who wish to experience the delightful selection of dishes that incorporate influences from the birthplace of the Marrakesh-born Kamal, synthesized with recipes of his Lebanese colleague.
Upon entering Kan Zaman, the breathtaking interior establishes an exotic Moorish feel, with vibrant hues of teal, tangerine and crimson complementing the warm wooden furnishings. A stenciled trellis-patterned wall takes the gaze up to the high vaulted ceiling to where elegant endless circle-latticed chandeliers illuminate the inviting space below. Patrons are embraced by the warm aromas of exotic spices, almost transporting them to a Moroccan bazaar. Just outside is an equally charming courtyard seating area incorporating a pre-existing wooden framework that makes for a perfect lunch or dinner setting on those breezy afternoons and evenings.
The food is equally impressive, being authentic and approachable. Using a number of spice blends made by Kamal’s mother in Morocco, Kamal and Youssef developed a menu starting with traditional lentil and harira soups, and a modest selection of salads including tabouleh and fattoush. There is also a variety of meze with more common finds as a garlicky and thick hummus, a smoky babaganoush and crispy falafel, but stretching the gamut to accommodate more exotic fare as warak inab (grape leaves stuffed with rice, mint, lemon and garlic vinaigrette), taktouka (cooked salad of tomatoes, bell peppers, olive oil, spices and herbs) and briwat (crispy phyllo pie filled with seafood and vermicelli). For the main courses, a few tajine and couscous options are available, as are a shish kabob of perfectly grilled marinated cubes of beef and a shish taouk, which is a grilled chicken brochette. Rounding out the selection are a few desserts, including the must-have baklava, with chopped almonds and walnuts sweetened and layered between sticky coated sheets of crispy and chewy phyllo pastry, as well as sweet oranges scented with sugar, cinnamon and orange blossom, and a katayef, which is an Arabic pancake topped with creamy banana sweetened with honey, which are all ideal with a pot of the addictively sweetened Moroccan mint tea.
Obviously, I did more than taste. Being that I patiently waited months for Kamal’s flavorful expressions and since I’m never sure with my sense of timing, I thought gorging would give me a satisfaction to last me for months. Instead, it established a craving that can only be staved off for days.
1) Tabouleh ($7.95) – Parsley salad with tomatoes, onions and bulgur wheat dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice had clean, fresh flavors.
2) Babaganoush ($7.95) – Charcoal grilled eggplant puree, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil made for a silky smooth spread. Roasted sesame notes were perfectly integrated into the beautifully smoky eggplant flavors, finished with a bright acidity.
3) Hummus ($6.95) – The chickpea and tahini puree was quite thick, with savory garlic and lemon notes.
4) Briwat ($8.95) – Crispy on the outside, the briwat was stuffed with a moist filling of shrimp, squid and vermicelli.
5) Chicken Tajine ($16.95) – The slow-braised moist chicken with preserved lemon, briny olives and saffron had savory touches of coriander, cumin and smoked paprika.
6) Lamb Couscous ($22.95) – The steamed couscous soaked up the flavorful broth enriched from the moist and fall-off-the-bone tender lamb shank with flavors and juices from the carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and chickpeas.
7) Shish Kabob ($17.95) – Tender marinated cubes of beef were moist and perfectly seasoned and served on a bed of fragrant rice.
The outdoor open-air dining area.A light yet refreshing Moroccan Salad ($7.95) of mixed greens, fresh oranges, cucumbers and radishes drizzled with an orange blossom & honey vinaigrette and smoky Babaganoush ($7.95) served with pita.The Shish Kabob ($17.95) on a bed of basmati rice and the Lamb Couscous ($22.95) in a flavorful broth with lamb shank, pumpkin, zucchini, tomatoes, chickpeas and root vegetables. Sweet endings with the Katayef ($4.95), Baklava ($3.50) and Moroccan mint tea ($6.00 for a pot)
Kan Zaman Phone: (808) 554-3847
1028 Nuuanu Avenue
Business hours: Mon – Thu, 11:00 am – 2:30 pm (Lunch) & 5:00 – 9:30 pm (Dinner); Fri-Sat, 11:00 am – 2:30 pm (Lunch) & 5:00 – 10:30 pm (Dinner)
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, JCB, Discover