Click here to leave a commentMY MOROCCO AT FALAFEL-LY YOURS, SOUTH ORANGE
My Morocco, which has been open for 5 years, is a gem that we have just discovered. Low, purple-and-white striped sofas with flowered pillows, red-gold, green and gold fabrics covering the walls, Middle Eastern rugs and multicolored ottomans aside low circular etched brass tables, along with Moroccan music, transported us to the Middle East. Aromas from the spices (ginger, cumin, cinnamon and turmeric) used in the multi-leveled flavored dishes wafted into the exotic room. This restaurant was delightful.The menu is half Middle Eastern with choices that include falafel, hummus, baba ghanouj, kebabs and shawerma and half Moroccan, which we ordered from, that offers traditional tomato-based harira soup, chicken bastille, cous cous, brochettes, tagines, lamb and chicken options. Halal meat is used and vegetarian dishes are available.A carrot salad had contrasting flavors and textures from crunchy shredded carrots and walnuts, sweet orange juice, cinnamon and raisins. Garlic, cumin, paprika and cilantro in a honey pomegranate chili sauce enlivened mashed steamed eggplant. Both were delicious appetizers and the portions were enough for four people. Mrouzia, a simmered lamb shank garnished with almonds and sesame seeds was seasoned with ras el hanout, an exotic Moroccan spice. Equally scrumptious was a moist chicken tagine slowly braised with saffron, turmeric and white pepper served with olives and homemade preserved lemons. Served in an earthenware vessel the chicken fell off the bone and the combination of flavors wowed us. A large bowl of rice accompanied both entrees.Dessert options fell short with baklava, chocolate mousse or carrot cake being the only options. We bypassed these as well as the Moroccan tea or Turkish coffee.
Open daily from lunch and dinner from 11 AM. Ask for the schedule for when belly dancers and live Moroccan music are offered.
ROSIE’S SHOUT OUTTHAI ESSENCE, NUTLEY
Our dinner at Thai Essence was a palate pleaser with perfectly flavored and fresh tasting food. Friendly attentive staff, cloth napkins and flowers on the tables, all added to our experience. Try the crispy fried squid with asparagus, peppers, string beans, onions and peas (medium spiced which was perfect for us) in a green coconut curry sauce. Ditto for the flat rice noodles in the drunken noodles dish, which was enhanced with chicken, shrimp, scallops, chili, onion and basil. The one clunker was crabmeat pancake that was lukewarm and described on the menu as containing fresh crabmeat and taro. It had a potato texture with no flavor of crabmeat, although we liked the avocado salsa topping and sweet peach sauce that surrounded this dish.
Along with the usual Thai offerings such as pad Thai, curry dishes and duck, this storefront has some interesting menu items we would like to try on our next visit such as fresh basil rolls, rack of lamb or crispy pan fried salmon. Chocolate soufflé, fried honey banana, warm apple or banana crepes as well as sticky rice with mango are on the dessert menu along with seven varieties of teas.Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Going to Thai Essence in Nutley was a emotional experience for Lowell and I as it is located next to the recently closed Stuffed Cupcake, and we had just left the wake of chef/co-owner Keith Jaret, who passed away at age 62 in February. We reminisced about Petite Café where in 2001 we first tasted Keith’s unique and eclectic cuisine. The restaurant morphed in 2008 with rave reviews into the well known Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes. Oprah even loved them and ordered 15,000 cupcakes in 2010 for a charity event. Both the food and memories warmed us up at Thai Essence.
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein