As part of our Think Global, Eat Local feature, we bring you the tastes of the Middle East and Africa
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
AU COIN DU MAROC
Addictive North African cuisine
By Cindy Deachman
Aguida Bakka tells stories like there’s no tomorrow. Stories about her past life in Casablanca 30 years ago, meeting Abdou, now her husband, at school. Stories about her prêt-à-porter business, tearing around Europe buying for her clothing stores. Stories about the couple’s three children. Also their three restaurants, including the present one in Gatineau, Au coin du Maroc. She reminisces about growing up in Casablanca.
The first restaurant was Le Quick and thrived from 1990 to 1997 in Morocco. But in 1998, the couple followed their daughter Karima, who was studying at the Université de Montréal. They opened their first Au coin du Maroc in Montreal, attracting loyal customers and good reviews from critics. The St-Denis location didn’t hurt, either — tourists and Montrealers alike thronged to the restaurant all evening.
But the long hours into the morning were hard to take. And so in 2008, Aguida and Abdou moved to Gatineau, where they surmised that the civil-service culture might provide a quieter life. Now the focus at Au coin du Maroc is their lunch buffet, into which Aguida puts her soul. “I make all my dishes just like I make them at home,” she states proudly. Try her pastilla, a one-person phyllo turnover filled with ground chicken, almonds, and honey. Dusted with icing sugar. Beet salad. Aguida’s own crusty round of aniseed bread. Delicate crisp-fried sole. Fluffy couscous with rich ratatouille. Apple cake, its top soaked in maple syrup. “Pour moi,” says Aguida, “c’est un art je dois faire.” Aguida’s mother, Hajja Fatima, was her mentor. By all accounts, Fatima’s fish tagine was incredible, made with the large loup (European sea bass), all in one piece. Come Sunday dinner, with all her eight children drawn in, as well as extended family making up at least 20, Hajja Fatima was “heureuse comme une ange.” And so her daughter also cooks, paying fierce homage to her mother. La grande dame.
71, rue Eddy, Gatineau (Hull sector), 819-777-9993.