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Walima in Astoria Review (long)

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quentinC Jan 19, 2007 02:19 AM

Went to this new Moroccan Restaurant on 31st ave and 44th street this past Saturday for lunch. We were looking to try someplace new and remembered that Walima had recently opend its doors. The host/owner/waiter is very friendly and welcoming. The decor is pretty basic, with paper-covered tables on two levels in a slightly awkward space, an open kitchen, and lots of windows. The menu has a good choice of salads, sandwiches (which looked huge), and entrees. Most prices were under $10, with entrees in the $10-$15 range.

We decided to try harira, the traditional Moroccan soup with beans, lentils, etc., a grilled eggplant salad, and a Moroccan salad (basically chopped tomato and roasted green peppers.) For an entree, we split the chicken tagine (which was listed as being cooked with saffron and lemon.) The service was fairly slow, but the food was generally very good. The soup was excellent, well-spiced and very filling, sort of like an exotic minestrone. The grilled eggplant salad was more like a spread (baba ganoush), with a nice smoky flavor, and some warm pita to go with it. The Moroccan salad was disappointing: insipid chopped out-of-season tomatoes and peppers with little seasoning or dressing. The chicken tagine was truly excellent. Half of a chicken in an order. Very crispy skin (we confirmed with the owner that the bird was fried briefly) and glazed with a complex sauce that tasted of preserved lemons and who knows what else--it was really tender, juicy, and good. We wished it had been served with some kind of vegetable or couscous, but for 13 bucks, we got our money's worth.

The owner graciously offered us a free round of (very sweet) Moroccan mint tea, which we happily accepted. There were a few families having lunch, and despite the slow service, the owner managed the dining room well. Beverages are limited to soft drinks, tea, coffee, etc. We asked about bringing alcohol, but the owner said that, as a practicing Muslim, he could not reconcile bringing booze into the place from which he makes his living (although, somewhat strangely, he did admit to being a "social drinker.")

Was the food life-altering? No. Did we like it? Yes. Will we go back? For sure.

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  1. mronda67 RE: quentinC Mar 2, 2007 03:56 AM

    I dined at Walima last night - it is Moroccan and at the corner of Forty Deuce and 31st Ave (not 44th Street as posted in the review above) and had a wonderful meal. Although as noted there is no alcohol the fresh and fluffy bread that arrived when we were seated more than made up for my craving for wine. We started with a falafel appetizer - four generous fried cigars of tasty chick pea and parsley that came with a rich and creamy white sauce that tasted of tahini and was addictive. I've had better falafel (these were more parsley-esque than I prefer) but that sauce did the trick.

    I had the Koufta and my companion had Fes Chicken. The Koufta were six very well seasoned and perfectly cooked meatballs of ground beef (not shaped like meatballs but more like little loaves). They arrived with a perfectly cooked and seasoned mix of shoestring carrots and zucchini, along with a fragrant yellow rice - again perfectly cooked.

    The Fes Chicken was two generous pieces of chicken (on the bone) over a huge platter of couscous (some chick peas along the edge for show). The chicken was tender and moist and covered with a sweet oniony sauce. Perhaps made of raisins - I didn't ask because I was too busy moaning from the pleasure of all these flavors in my mouth.

    The service was friendly and attentive. The wait person for our table heard my companion sneeze from across the room and brought him some extra napkins as he had no tissue. Now that's attention.

    The prices are fair for the amount and quality of food IMHO. They deliver.

    1. c
      Cail RE: quentinC Mar 16, 2007 06:20 AM

      Dined at Walima last night with two friends.

      Over all, I felt it was a good restaurant and would go again.

      Positive traits:
      Excellent Service: our waitress was very friendly, excited about the menu, and willing to explain the dishes in detail. She expressed her opinion when asked and noted which dishes were most popular. When my friend asked what CD was playing, she offered to make a copy for the next time we visited. Our waters were constantly filled up, and she brought us more bread when she noticed our basket was low.

      Good food: we ordered the phyllo pastry (blanking on the name!) with the chicken, and the one with the seafood, as well as the traditional couscous. for an appetizer we ordered the Hummus. The flavor for all of the dishes were very good. The Moroccan Tea was great, and she brought us a second pot free.

      Price: The bill for our party of 3 was 60 bucks. not bad for three main dishes, two drinks and hummas.

      Negative Aspects: The main courses we ordered all took a very long time to cook. The phyllo pastries came out about 10 minutes before the couscous. The waitress apologies profusely for the wait, as it took about an hour to receive our meal due to an emergency which left the kitchen short-staffed.

      All in all, I'd recommend Walima. I'd probably order take out unless I had quite a bit of free time.

      1. m
        M kerrout RE: quentinC Sep 27, 2007 12:25 AM

        I had dinner at Walima on a Saturday and as a Moroccan as well as a restaurant consultant, I truly and sincerely have lot of respect and admiration for this place. I ve been living in Astoria for the past 10 years and I ve seen so many Moroccan restaurants come and go but let me assure you that according to my unparalleled dinning experience at Walima, I can only say that Walima is here to stay!!!

        As an appetizer, I had the Harrira and I honestly thought that it was the best Harrira I ve ever had. The balance of the aromas of the spices and vgs, the amazing texture of the lentils and the chick peas, the tender pieces of beef and the citrus taste from the squeezed lemon truly gave me a fulfilling and succulent taste and that in my opinion, makes Walima a master of this Moroccan delicacy. As an entrée, I had the Fez Chicken Tagine and as soon as I took the first bite, I recalled that I ve tasted something like this before and It was back in 2005 when I spent a couple nights at Boujloud, a neighborhood in the City of Fez( Morocco) that has been in existence for 10,000s of years and is the place for the best Tagines on earth. Walima’s chicken Tagine was a piece of edible art!! The chiken was juicy and tender, the sauce was more of a delicious demiglace of olive oil, preserved lemon and Moroccan herbs and spices. In other words, that tagine was as close to my Fez experience as I ve ever experienced in any other Moroccan restaurants in the US

        The servers were courteous, attentive, “raffines”, and eager to please. Service in general was a WOW experience for us that night.

        The owner / waiter is someone who takes his business seriously and is eager to please everyone. I truly appreciate Moroccans who try hard and put a sincere effort in the daily operations of their institutions.

        1 Reply
        1. re: M kerrout
          Brian S RE: M kerrout Dec 1, 2007 06:57 AM

          I just saw this week's review in the Village Voice and was considering visiting Walima. Now that I've read your report and those of the other posters, I certainly will visit soon. Thanks for posting!

          Walima, 31-06 42nd Street Astoria, Queens 718-204-0707

          Village Voice review: www.villagevoice.com/nyclife/0748,sie...

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          Walima
          31-06 42nd St, Queens, NY 11103

        2. Brian S RE: quentinC Dec 4, 2007 04:27 PM

          I went there on this frigid night and the chicken tajine made me forget about the cold. It was every bit as good as the other posters said. A juicy half chicken with yummy skin, the sauce a thick paste made of lemon marmalade, olives, cumin and possibly some sort of ras el hanout spice blend. It's not that far from the R train (Steinway or 46 St stop) and even if it were, it would be worth the trip.

          Walima
          31-06 42 St (right on the corner of 31 Av)
          (718) 204-0707
          Closed Mondays

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