Wednesday, 5 June 2013

b'stilla, south yarra: moroccan magic

Hot and sultry harissa, at b'stilla.

"It goes with everything", the waiter narrates as he sets the fiery red harissa down at our table, and my eyes lit up in anticipation of happily sprinkling this famous condiment all over the ensuing savoury dishes to come.

We're having lunch at B'Stilla (30b Bray St, South Yarra) on a Friday, and it is surprisingly quiet. The crowds, no doubt, will push through as the night falls. But for now, we have almost the whole place to ourselves.

We started with the eponymous dish, b'stilla. One of the nice things here is that the menu offers a glossary for those who are unfamiliar with Moroccan food, and I am one of those who could certainly use a helping hand. Here's what they say:

B’stilla pronounced as “bas - stee - ya”
- traditional Moroccan pigeon pie often served as a starter for special occasions and celebrations. Our B’stilla combines pigeon and duck with sweet and salty flavours and a combination of thin, crisp layers of brik pastry.

It sounded intriguing. It looked intriguing, too.

Yes, those are generous lashings of powdered sugar and cinnamon piled upon a pie with savoury fillings.

B’stilla - a traditional Moroccan pigeon pie, $14.

I was a tiny bit skeptical.

The pastry was, indeed, beautifully thin and crisp, shattering ever so pleasingly underneath my cutlery. Then, a spoonful to taste, and lo and behold, it somehow worked, the sweetness, the cinnamon, and the bits of pigeon and duck and egg and almonds. Unfamiliar, to be sure, but in a good way. For some, it may be an acquired taste. We acquired it within seconds.

B’stilla pie with pigeon, duck, almonds, cinnamon, saffron, and egg.

More adventures abound. This here is a lamb medfouna, which, according to the menu, is a Berber style pizza. Meat or lentils, encased in a pastry and usually cooked in the ground. Ours is made with a potato pastry and cooked in an oven.

Lamb medfouna with labne, $6.

We discovered this to be reminiscent of a comforting potato cake, made even more amazing with the lamb and cashew filling, and the minty-green labne served alongside. Simon loved this, ever so much. And so did I.

Gorgeous bits of lamb and cashew, wrapped up in equally gorgeous potato pastry.

We were sad when we finished the medfouna (which Simon later pronounced to be the dish of the day), but there was no time to mourn. On to the next plate: smokey eggplant with crispy garlic, sesame, and coriander. This was categorised under "salads" but it's almost more like a sensual, textural dip that you can enjoy on its own. It was pretty awesome, and probably the kind of salad with which you can win friends.

A lush, smoky eggplant dish, $9.

The cauliflower with pine nut paste, ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend) and herbs continue our good run with salads. As with the above, there are some lovely elements working in harmony here, and my only gripe, if I must, is that I would welcome even more of that spice on the cauliflower florets. Give it to me, baby.

Roasted cauliflower florets and friends, $8.

We also ordered this chargrilled duck merguez (basically, a sausage) with lemon, because, quite frankly, it was one of the cheapest things on the menu and we figured we could fit in a little more. Meaty, spicy, and quite perfectly cooked, this one definitely earned its keep.

Chargrlled duck merguez with lemon, $4.5.

Did anyone say dessert?

Rosewater flan, dates, walnut nougatine, $11.

This rosewater flan was just stunning. A smooth custard winks with ephemeral hints of rosewater as it perches prettily on a dense date puree. Dark, syrupy caramelisation. Shards of sweet, crunchy walnut toffee. Beautiful.

Rosewater flan on date puree, scattered with walnut nougatine.

Admittedly, I don't eat out as often or as lavishly as many other food bloggers, but for what it's worth, this is my favourite dining experience so far this year. It has been a long while since I have been so roundly impressed by a meal, and if B'Stilla can keep this up, I sincerely hope that they hang around for many, many years to come.

B'Stilla on Urbanspoon

28 comments:

  1. Oh wow. Interesting but not stir crazy - love!

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    1. It definitely strikes a lovely balance with intrigue!

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  2. Oh my goodness. This looks so amazing! I'd love to try pigeon one day!

    gemma @ http://andgeesaid.blogspot.com.au/

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    1. Pigeon is fantastic, though it's just one of the many elements in this pie so it gets a little lost in there. To experience pigeon in its full glory, try it roasted or fried, it's like duck but even more tender. ;)

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  3. I've been dying to visit here and your post doesn't help matters! I need to find time to eat at Bstilla soon :)

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    1. Yes it's definitely worth finding the time! :D

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  4. That rosewater flan looks great!

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  5. Man, those photos of the flan! mmm! Want to go back! And try some of the stuff I didn't get to my first time around!

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    1. I know! So many other things on the menu I'd love to try!

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  6. Stop it. Stop it. Rosewater is one of those words that I can't resist when it comes to food. In fact, I had a rosewater caramel just yesterday...

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    1. Rosewater caramel sounds fabulous too! x

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  7. whoa! amazing. everything looks so fresh and inventive. the flavours in the flan are intrigiuing - i would never think to combine girly fragrant rosewater with rich dates. yum!

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    1. Yeah, it was a rather fantastic combination, that. :)

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  8. This place is one of our favourites. Everything is so flavoursome and such good value! We first visited for lunch and having also been back for dinner, lunch time is much nicer. Less claustrophic! :)

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    1. I can imagine dinner would be much busier and noisier! I guess I chose a really good time. :D

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  9. What a wonderful meal! I've always wanted to try b'stilla and that looks like an excellent one.

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    1. It's the only one I've ever tried, so I don't have a yardstick for it, but it was pretty tasty.

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  10. I had B'stilla in Meknes once and am still dreaming of it - so delicious!

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    1. Ah, jealous! I want to visit Morocco someday.

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  11. Hooray! Love this place, and really like the chef, he is a truly lovely and charismatic person. I need to go back for brunch and snap a few photos of the beautiful food. Unabashedly my new favorite place in the area.

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    1. Yay, it's so good isn't it? And if my experience is anything to go by, brunch is a lovely time to visit. I got there just after noon.

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  12. this place looks incredible! I love Moroccan cuisine!

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  13. looks like such a good fare! I would like to try this!

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  14. Oooh they actually use pigeon in their b'stilla? Awesome.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, pigeon and duck. In tiny bits though, and being mixed up with other stuff you won't taste it very distinctly, but still good. :)

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