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Moroccan Bastilla, Pastilla or (or b'stia - however you spell it)e it!)

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magnolia Nov 17, 2000 07:21 AM

Anyone know where you can get good traditional Moroccan bastilla in NYC?

  1. p
    Pete W. Nov 27, 2000 02:54 PM

    We had great Moroccan bastilla in Astoria at La Kasbah, 25-70 Steinway St., 718-726-2700. The tagines were also nice.

    1. j
      jonathan sibley Nov 20, 2000 01:11 PM

      I seem to remember a pretty good bastilla at Tagine, on 9th ave and 40th St. in New York. I at there a few months ago, so my memory is a little vague (guess I should have posted a review back then!). As I remember it, most of the dishes were quite tasty (especially some cooked greens that we got as an appetizer), but the portions were a bit small, and it was somewhat pricey for the neighborhood, type of restaurant, and size of portions served.

      Also, it's a bit of work, but there is a good recipe in Paula Wolfert's classic "Couscous and Other Good Things" (a great cookbook, btw).

      1. m
        mrdesimon Nov 20, 2000 09:17 AM

        the Moroccan chef at Oznot's Dish in Bklyn (not a Leff fave, I know, but still...) makes a pretty good Bastilla, Pastilla, etc. from time to time. I'd call ahead and see if it's on the specials list.
        -sd

        1. j
          Jim Leff Nov 17, 2000 10:28 AM

          Here's the deal with NYC Moroccan: the Usual Suspect places are execrable. Just forget 'em all.

          There is a small Moroccan population in the boroughs, and at any one time there's precisely one great place to eat serving that community. The first one I found was Papaya Pyramids in Queens, but the chef died and the place turned Egyptian. Then opened Casablanca in Brooklyn (which is in my book), which was stunningly wonderful. They too went under (shut doors the day Eric Asimov went by to try it). These places have a life span of only a year or two.

          There is undoubtedly a good Moroccan out there right now, and we must all work on finding it. Trick is to find Moroccans in the boroughs and ask around.

          Again, terrific bastilla awaits. Just gotta chowhound it out. Report back and I'll do likewise!

          ciao

          8 Replies
          1. re: Jim Leff
            j
            Jason Perlow Nov 17, 2000 11:39 AM

            Theres actually a very good moroccan place out here in NJ on route 46 -- Marrakesh I beleive it is called, in Parsippany.

            They have a fixed multi-course menu, which ends with the requisite couscous and the mint tea but it also includes the Bastilla. I really love this dish, with the pastry crust filled with eggs, chicken and cinnamon, although it is served so incredibly piping hot that when you try to tear it apart with your hands, it burns your frigging fingers off.

            Now you done it. I'm in the mood for this for dinner now.

            1. re: Jason Perlow
              m
              magnolia Nov 17, 2000 11:52 AM

              come to think of it, there used to be (and maybe there still is) a Marrakesh restaurant in Philadelphia, which seved Bastilla exactly the same way. Wonder if they're related?

              1. re: magnolia
                m
                Miriam Nov 17, 2000 12:41 PM

                This may be one of Leff's execrable usual suspects (and of course it's in Manhattan) but anyone been to Lotfi's in recent years? I used to pass it all the time, and had occasion to meet the chef, a charming, humble man. Never tasted his bastilla, though.

                1. re: Miriam
                  r
                  Rachel Perlow Nov 17, 2000 02:16 PM

                  I believe Lofti's is exactly the place to which Jim was referring. I've never been there, but have heard from more than one source, including chowhound, that it is sub-par, so I've been leary about going there.

                  Jason and I had been to Marakesh Restaurant in Parsippany, NJ, a couple times, but over a year ago. We'll go again tonight and report.

                  I know, I know, once again someone expresses a desire for something in NYC, and we provide an option in NJ, oh well. Depending on how strong the desire is, the NJ info may be helpful. We'll post about tonight's meal on the Tristate board.

                  Marakesh Restaurant
                  321 Rt 46 East, Parsippany, NJ
                  973-808-0062

              2. re: Jason Perlow
                j
                Jim Leff Nov 18, 2000 12:35 AM

                Sorry, but FWIW I'm not a fan of this place at all. But for those reading along, it's at 321 rt46, Parsippany (973)808-0062

                1. re: Jim Leff
                  r
                  Rachel Perlow Nov 18, 2000 11:13 AM

                  Hey Jim, would you mind sharing why you didn't care for it? I can guess, there are some problems which I'll outline below. But, since there are so few places in the Tristate area to get this type of cuisine, when you're in the mood for it and want to enjoy a fun and relaxing evening out, I'd definitely recommend it.

                  ~~~

                  Jason and I went to Marakesh Restaurant on Rt 46 in Parsippany NJ last night (see my previous post for address/phone). You walk into a stripmall storefront and enter a movie/kitchy version of Morocco. Seating is on low couches upholstered in colorful fabrics with many cushions. Food is served upon metal trays (~30" diameter) and you eat communally from the same plates as your dining companions (not with strangers). When I was last there more than a year ago, they didn't offer cutlery except a spoon for the soup, now they give you a fork before your salad course and a knife when the dish calls for it.

                  Dinner is a seven course affair. First a lentil soup with chick peas that was delish and comforting since the night was chilly. Everything is served with pita bread, which traditionally you use to scoop up bits of food. Here is the one main fault with the place - they seem to use commercial pita bread, cut into quarters and it is frequently on the border of stale. Several times I asked the bread server to come back so I could choose the bread myself. When it was fresh and soft it was fine, but occasionally pieces would have stale edges, which could really detract from the enjoyment of your evening.

                  The second course is a salad platter. Previously it was an assortment of traditional salads I hadn't had before. I particularly remember a carrot salad. Last evening it was a dish of hummos with a liberal splash of olive oil (oh yeah, I forgot they put out a little dish of olives when you sit down which Jason enjoyed). The hummos was surrounded by two piles of lettuce/tomato/beet salad with an herb dressing, and two smaller mounds of a cooked tomatoey-carroty meze. All were very good, but along with the fork presented, gave me the feeling they were catering to American tastes more than they were a couple years ago.

                  After the salad platter came the Bastilla. It was lovely. The moist filling of egg and chicken, etc., flavored with cinnamon on the inside surrounded by flaky fillo pastry, sprinkled with powdered sugar. It's not my favorite dish in the world, but for the person jonesing for good bastilla who started this thread, I'm sure it would hit the spot.

                  The fourth dish is your entree, which is the only dish you get to choose among choices in your meal (each 2 people can choose one entree). There are 10 choices. Bruchettes of chicken or beef, or tagines of chicken on the bone prepared with preserved lemon and olives, honey and apricots, or spicy Tunisian sauce (not really spicy hot, but highly seasoned); or baby lamb prepared three different ways; fish or vegetarian. We got the Tunisian chicken tagine, which was a small whole chicken with a red sauce which was yummy sopped up with the pita and eaten with the pieces of very tender chicken.

                  Next comes a dish of perfect cous-cous topped with vegetables. It is mild after the highly seasoned meat course, but that is a very nice transition for your palette before dessert.

                  The sixth course is a glass of honey sweetened mint tea which is followed by the seventh, a plate of fruit with a piece of a crisply fillo drizzled with condensed milk and chocolate and sprinkled with chopped peanuts. A very simple ending to a meal with a wide variety of tastes and textures.

                  On Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights there is entertainment. The musicians began around 8:15 and were joined by a belly dancer about 8:30. Somehow the waiters manage to keep the meal going stepping around the dancer performing along the center aisle of the restaurant. After the main belly dancer performed two dances, two other women began dancing with the music. They were dressed nicely, but not in the belly dancer costume, so I don't know if this was planned or not, but it led to them teaching first one lady, then many in an impromtu (?) belly dancing class. We'd been there once before with a belly dancer that did not lead to a class, so I don't know if it is now a regular thing or just something that happened. In either case it was fun!

                  The restaurant is BYOB (the owner is moslem and doesn't have a liquer license for religious reasons, but they welcome you to bring wine and will open bottles and provide glasses and ice buckets). The meal is prix-fixe at $22, with non-alcoholic drinks (fruit nectars, lemonade, soda, etc.), a $2 per person entertainment charge, tax & tip, it came to $66 total.

                  As I said before the restaurant does have some small problems, but for a leisurely and fun night out with a group of friends (there was a group of about 10 women celebrating something), as a family (next to us were a couple with their two young children, the kids have room the strech out and seemed mesmerized by the new foods and the belly dancer), two or more couples (represented by a few different parties), or a romantic evening just for the two of you, it sure beats dinner and a movie!

                  1. re: Rachel Perlow
                    j
                    Jim Leff Nov 19, 2000 01:23 AM

                    Rachel--agreed that it's fun, romantic, evocative. It's just that I, personally, don't like the food. It's neither authentic nor delicious in my opinion.

                    One more thing (completely unrelated to my opinion of this place): I'm not sure you realize...you've posted 4 messages to 3 boards today about this restaurant. I realize your intentions are pure, but I'm sure you'll understand that it sets a bad precedent for those with less pure (e.g. commercial or hypey) intentions...who might get the idea that it's ok to multi-post about places.

                    ciao

                    1. re: Jim Leff
                      a
                      Alan Divack Nov 19, 2000 10:48 AM

                      See my posting on the international board for b'stillla with warka (not phyllo) on ST Martin in the Caribbean.

                      Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            2. e
              emily Nov 17, 2000 10:08 AM

              i know one place not to get it: cookies and couscous. theirs was alright, but too bland. not enough oomph for such a spectacular dish.

              but their sorbet...oh yeah.

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