Moroccan culture, cuisine alive in Lansdowne

Argana restaurant manager, Chris Arouh, left, with customers — SUBMITTED PHOTO

As a multiethnic community with a rich culture, Lansdowne is growing into small oasis with international appeal.

The recent opening of Argana Restaurant is a representation of its diversity and how the community intends to preserve it.

“Food is important in our culture,” said Argana’s manager Chris Arouh. “We try to provide a dining experience that reflects true Moroccan culture. When you come in for a meal we want you to feel like we’re family.”

Arouh and Argana’s owner, Zouhir Oullaf, are native Moroccans that were encouraged to relocate to Delaware County by a mutual friend and fellow expatriate, Rachid Salahdine.

Their desire to have authentic Moroccan food lead the pair to open the establishment that replaced the old Lansdowne Diner.

Before pursing his passion, Oullaf spent years working as an employee with Aston based Powell Pump & Well Drilling.

“We had to drive an hour to New Jersey for authentic Moroccan cuisine,” said Oullaf, a Clifton Heights resident who holds a mining engineering degree. He has also volunteered his time with a nonprofit organization which takes him back to Morocco twice a year.

“We asked friends if they knew of someone that works in a restaurant and could help us create our dishes,” Oullaf mentioned about the restaurant’s beginnings. Consulting with area friends to ensure that the menu reflected true Moroccan meals Arouh and Oullaf grew up on, they set out to hire a chef and find ingredients native to their homeland. “There are about 20 of us (from Morocco) in the area that get together from time to time,” said Arouh.

“We spoke with her (the chef) but she wasn't ready to leave her job,” Arouh continued. “She helped us to get started and now we have line cooks that prepare the food.” Argana’s diverse staff contributes to its ambiance and presentation.  

Featured on the menu is an array of traditional Moroccan food from soups to entrees. “Harira soup is my favorite,” Oullaf said of the famous tomato and lentil soup that is often served by Moroccans during the month of Ramadan. With affordably priced meals, the BYOB restaurant also features the belly dancing of multi-award winning professional dancer, Shiraz, on special nights.

“We had a delicious dinner and wonderful company,” said recent guest Marcia Barrett. “Great food and great service!” Lansdowne resident, Jane, enjoyed her first experienced at Argana with a friend as well. “The tea and the baklava are delightful,” she said.

Arouh and Oullaf are working 13–14 hour days to bring a bit of Morocco to Delaware County. “This is not work, this is having fun,” said Arouh. Over twenty years ago, the hospitality management degree holder was recruited by Disney to work at its Morocco Pavilion in Florida. “We have to listen to our customers; if you don’t listen you’re not going to make it,” he said.

“I enjoy making sure everything is fine,” Arouh shared. “I once gave a tour of the kitchen to one of our little customers and he loved it. We have people coming from Wayne to eat at our restaurant, the word is getting out.” As an area resident and member of Lansdowne’s business community, Arouh is pleased to be a part of its resurgence. “I like Lansdowne and being a part of this community.”

Like the extremely diverse cuisine that they serve, thanks to Morocco’s interaction with other cultures and nations over the centuries, Argana offers an authentic dining experience. Arouh and Oullaf intend on being a part of Lansdowne offerings for some time to come.

“So far we have been well supported by the community and look forward serving for years to come,” Arouh said.

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