You can easily go to Alphabet City to a great new restaurant every time, without exhausting your list for months. My only tidings to the folks are that either it should be just two of you, or it shouldn’t be a Friday or Saturday evening. That might liberate you many a moon.
This Moroccan place has been on my to-go-to list from the Michelin guide’s read for a while now.
Nice place, more sizable than I thought it was. The on-hold time was still an hour, guess it had to do with it being a Firday evening, and also the fact that it was five of us.
So coming back to the five of us, the stall time usually is fun with us chatting as we wait to be called. While we waited, we got dumplings from right across the street to dump something into our growling tummies. (The Dumpling Man shall be a separate post. It is a definite to-go-to place.)
Finally, we’re seated. The place has a very nice feel about it. Very busy and lots of hustle bustle going on. Yet, you may go there for a date. It has outside seating as well, but we culled inside.
The drinks menu – really good. I started with a Grappa from the Apéritifs and Digestifs menu. Sharp. Grappa is really called a poor man’s wine, made off of the by-products of wine. More on Grappa – http://www.lifeinitaly.com/wines/grappa.asp
The others got a mojito, Gold rush (was good, strong), and a couple of glasses of wines.
We had a mixed platter and falafels for appetizers. The falafels were very, very good. Not greasy. The hummus was super fresh. Baba ganoush was good too. The harissa and pita bread both were good and fresh, though I have had better at other places. Another appetizer that we ordered was halloumi platter – grilled cheese and vegetables. The halloumi cheese is usually made from sheep’s milk, sometimes mixed with goat’s milk but only few times from cow’s milk. It is white and is similar in texture to mozzarella. Halloumi is supposed to have originated from Cyprus. Vegetarian folks, rennet is commonly used to set cheeses, and halloumi also uses that. Vegetarian options are available too, but I highly doubt all these restaurants would care for that. Having a higher melting point than the other cheeses makes it apt for grilling and frying.
I am always big on falafels and hummus. And that would’ve sufficed for the evening for me.
Second round of drinks – Sambuca Romana for me. Fantastic. I absolutely love the anise flavour, very similar to fennel seeds. I like it (fennel flavour) in my toothpaste as well :). Well, even other than the toothpaste, it has a refreshing flavour. Like Grappa, this one was very concentrated as well. Sweeter and more subtle than the Grappa. The other great drink was the pistachio martini.
For the entrée, I ordered vegetable tagine with crispy okra, especially for the okra, served with cous cous. The okra was a tiny part of the entrée :(, almost like a generous garnish, other than that, the entrée was OK. Sweet corn didn’t go as well with the dish, but the other veggies, carrots and potatoes in oodles, were well done – neither over cooked nor raw.
The warm chocolate cake with raspberry sauce was great for dessert. Thin layer of the cake on the outside, flowing chocolate in the inside. To go with these molten chocolate cakes, my favourite is raspberry sauce, more than caramel, more than white chocolate – and this I say from my indulgences in various places that I’ve been to so far. Worth giving it a shot here.
The orange, almond cake was good too, tasted very well with the generous amount of orange sauce.
Fun time with the friends over sambucas and grappas and mojitos and wines and martinis. And food..
Presentations – Good.
Service – OK to good.
A once-to-go-to place, if you love gorging out; pass if you don’t. I’ll tell you of better places.
Three and a half stars.