30b Bray St
South Yarra, VIC 3141
03 9826 2370
Because I’m notoriously wrinkle-nosey towards cumin and its cousin spices, I’m often left out of invites when it comes to Middle Eastern food gatherings. What’s worse than having a diner in the group constantly nitpicking about the food? On this note, I sometimes find that food tastes better when the whole table’s cheerful… and that food has to be damn bloody good for me to enjoy it if service is bad. Does that make me an emotional eater?
Either way, I found I had to take things into my own hands when it comes to visiting places like this one. Even if I am keen, no one is going to risk asking me to dine there. So I was quite pleased when Kicci, who’s visiting from Singapore, mushroom-picked that place out from my wishlist. Fakegf and her Ang Moh came along to make a cosy table of four one Wednesday night in November.
Flourless orange cake, sweet mint tea
We entered an almost empty restaurant at its 8.30pm seating. Being a weekday, everyone else went for the early seating at 6pm. Service was friendly and the atmosphere modern, warm, and inviting. After we placed our orders, we received complimentary glasses of sweet mint tea with flourless orange cake. It worked just as well as a starter as it would’ve as an end to the meal.
Lamb ribs, apricot, cardamom 13
B’stilla – chicken, duck, almonds, cinnamon, saffron, egg 14
The menu’s designed for sharing, with portion sizing that’s commensurate with the price of the dish. We started off with these delicious lamb ribs that were crisp on the outside and gently counterpointed by a tangy apricot sauce.
And of course we had to sample the dish that the restaurant’s named after: the Bisteeya (same pronunciation – ‘bas-tee-yah’). It’s a traditional Moroccan pie… sweet, savoury, and nutty with a dusting of icing sugar on top, it tasted like a thin and crispy dessert pie with surprise meat. Can’t say I warmed that much to it.
Chargrilled keftas, hazelnut, honey, argan oil 9
Smokey eggplant, crispy garlic, sesame, coriander 9
These two dishes, however, were spectacular. The goat keftas were like beautifully spiced grilled meatballs paired unusually but nicely with honey. And the babaganoush-like eggplant dish was smoked to absolute perfection. Everyone at the table enjoyed both dishes.
Beef short rib, carrot jam, preserved lemon 32
On the heftier side of things, the beef short ribs came beautifully stacked and fall apart soft. Fakegf loved how they used preserved lemon in the dish. However, like with many big pieces of meat, I personally thought the flavour didn’t infuse sufficiently into its insides.
Cous cous, pumpkin, smoked chili, coriander, preserved citrus 9
For sides, we picked a couscous salad with honey glazed pumpkin and a confident push of chillies. This… was lovely.
Lamb tagine, ginger, cinnamon, date 30
And of course one can’t dine Middle Eastern with trying a tagine (see the conical earthenware covers), hence this encore of lamb. We were quite full by this point as the other dishes filled us up with unforeseen and steady momentum. But this was a warming, unctuous, and wintery dish… with soft succulent lamb pieces in the stew, a warm hug of spices, naturally sweetened with whole pieces of Medjool dates. Full as I was, I enjoyed it in all its sweet-and-savoury glory.
Rosewater flan, dates, walnut nougatine 11
Khrinjos (Moroccan doughnuts), citrus curd, almond 12
The dessert menu listed several irresistible sounding items, so we picked three to share. Fakegf enjoyed the rosewater flan so much she almost used her arms to wall it all off to herself. I personally thought it was quite heavy with torch-caramelisation but enjoyed the gentle scent of desiccated flowers in it. The Moroccan donuts were crisp and fresh and they came with citrus curd that’s nice and tart.
Tahini ice cream, honeycomb, orange blossom 10
My personal favourite dessert was the tahini ice cream, which was like a gentler, white version of black sesame ice cream, accompanied by a gentle whiff of orange blossom infused into tufts of Persian fairy floss.
I’m glad I got to try this place. Even before visiting, I somehow knew that none of the dishes would make me baulk at Middle Eastern spices. It goes to show that even when you have slight phobias of certain cuisines, it is still worth trying it out again to see if your palate has changed.
I think B’Stilla balances out the spices in its dishes very nicely, and it gives me the confidence to believe that food creation and appreciation can always evolve continuously. Oh dear…*sniff*… I’m being emotional…!…!