Last week we had another get together of our ad-hoc vegan dining group, this time at B’stilla, a Moroccan restaurant in South Yarra. On a cold and rainy Monday night we headed out for a special vegan dinner they were holding. Eight of us had booked in for the dinner. Three veg*n bloggers were at the table and so I’m sure the dinner will be eventually blogged by all of us.
I’d heard some good things about how the restaurant catered well for vegans and some more lukewarm reviews. I was staying open-minded, but I confess I was a bit scared as I really don’t like saffron and I’m a bit funny about sweet spices with savoury food. Both of these are pretty central to Moroccan cuisine.
We settled onto our table which was cosily tucked into a corner where we could carry on a decent conversation. Some of us opted for the paired wines ($30 for 4 glasses), others stuck with mocktails and I had a foot in both camps starting with a refreshing apple, mint cucumber mocktail and moving on later to shiraz. The other mocktail was a rosewater lemonade which I am told was delicious, if you are a fan of rosewater, which I am not.
Once we were all seated with our drinks, the food started to arrive pretty rapidly, so rapidly I thought we were going to be done in less than an hour. There was a grilled Moroccan batbout flatbread with a tomato and citrus jam, some incredible fried baby okra spiced with zhoug, a green chilli, parsley, coriander, cumin and various other spices mix. These were the ultimate beer snack, crisp, soft, salty and spicy – I could happily have eaten the whole bowl. Next up was a small bowl of harira, a spicy, zingy lemon soup.
There was a small pause before that most Moroccan of dishes arrived, b’stilla. Traditionally these are meaty, but these were made of eggplant and pumpkin, wrapped in the thin brik pastry and decorated with the tradtional dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon. I liked mine, the sweet/savoury combination worked well with the vegetables, though the bottom of the pastry was almost impossible to cut through.
The b’stilla were accompanied by two wonderful salads, a Moroccan slaw and a roasted beetroot and walnut salad. The slaw was almost my pick of dish of the night just beaten by the okra. It was dressed with a mildly spicy chilli dressing and packed with small bites of almond and apricots. The beetroot was spiced, roasted and served with a delicious green chermoula and walnuts. There was a lot going on with the spices and the earthy beetroot and the creamy walnuts.
Another merciful pause before the arrival of the root vegetable and chickpea tagine with couscous. By this time we were getting pretty full! Firstly, the couscous. This was the nicest, lightest couscous I have ever eaten. Clearly I have to lift my game from the instant variety! The tagine was delicious, and sprinkled with crunchy pumpkin seeds which made for a nice textural contrast. But most of us were defeated by now and could only manage a small portion.
Finally, the dessert was a saffron rice pudding with freeze-dried berries and pistachios. I loved this from a textural point of view and for the sweet flavour, but the saffron was a killer for me, I really don’t like it. Otherwise a great dessert and saffron lovers would be very happy.
The banquet was a bargain at $45 and I’d be very happy to return. I think I’ve overcome my fear of Moroccan food. 🙂
30 Bray St
South Yarra, 3141
(03) 9826 2370