30b Bray Street
+61 3 9826 2370
B’stilla, pronounced Bas-tee-yah, has been on the The Angmoh’s list of “places to take the girlfriend to” for quite awhile. Of course, this list has been suggested by me and after more than half a year had passed since I mentioned B’stilla, I had to take matters into my own hands. This opportunity arose when Kicci visited in November and suggested dinner at B’stilla. I leapt at Fakebooo’s invite, and accepted on The Angmoh’s behalf.
It was wintry cold and wet that evening. We had picked the later seating at 8pm, and were starving by the time we got there. In retrospect, we probably could have turned up earlier and still be seated; it was quiet that weekday night. The line-up of tagines prepare the palette for slow-cooked, spiced, tender Middle Eastern food.
We approached dinner treading on cautious ground that evening. Middle Eastern wasn’t a cuisine any of us were familiar with and I found the juxtaposition of sweet amongst savoury to be a common feature.
An amuse bouche of a spiced nutty orange cake with sweet mint tea commenced dinner. Instead of the usual refreshing or neutral palate cleansers, this sweet start helped awaken the tastebuds for the flavoursome dishes to come.
Our entrees consisted of lamb ribs, bastilla and goat keftas. The lamb ribs were meltingly tender, topped with a crisp skin. The apricot marmalade helped cut through the richness of the dish. The bastilla, which the restaurant is named after, was our unanimous ‘must-try’ dish of the night. While well-executed, my Chinese palate didn’t quite appreciate the marzipan and sweet flavours in a meat pastry dish. The goat keftas had The Angmoh’s sigh of approval. I loved the honeyed hazelnut argan paste and was secretly tempted to get the recipe for a hair masque.
A change of plates signalled the arrival of our mains. The babaganoush was fantastic. The roasted pureed eggplant had a good balance of salt, oil and smoke. The flavour was further enhanced by sesame seeds and garlic chips. The couscous had roasted pumpkin, which I ate without any complaint for the first time in my life. It was simply that good. We were pre-warned that the couscous would be spicy and it certainly was. It was a pleasant surprise to see the use of chilli in Middle Eastern cooking. Our meat selection came in the form of beef short ribs and lamb tagine. The tagine reminded me of oxtail stew, sticky with unctuous melted cartilage in a rich tomato stew, sweetened by Medjool dates.
Although precariously close to bursting, we simply had to order dessert. After all, having started with something sweet, it only made sense to end it the same way. We ordered three to share, although I loved the flan so much that I pretty much hoarded it all to myself. The crème caramel was silky smooth and it sat in a moat of sweet datey syrup. The infusion of roses and sprinkling of dried pink rose petals had me falling head over heels over and over again.
Another dessert deserving a mention was the tahini ice cream, which turned out to be Fakebooo’s favourite. The tahini ice cream was nutty and perfect against the masala beetroot pate. The fairy floss was wispy thin and disappeared on the tongue, leaving a gentle trace of orange.
Dinner at B’stilla was perfect, there was delicious food, lovely attentive service and excellent company. It makes a great foray into Middle Eastern flavours with spices perfectly balanced. So head off rowdy Chapel Street into the magic carpet ride of spiced heady flavours that is B’stilla.