Slow Food from North Africa
B’stilla (bastilla) is the antidote to Middle Eastern food as fast food, take-out food, street food—gyros, kabobs, hummus. Barbary Fig’s Algerian-born, French-influenced chef-owner, Brahim Hadj-Moussa, coddles each batch for 24 hours.
He’s adapted the dish to Midwestern sensibilities by using chicken in place of the traditional shredded pigeon (sometimes bones and all), but he still envelopes it in the flaky, papery North African pastry called warqa, and he’s true to the practice of seasoning the meat with onion, ginger, saffron, and cinnamon. To the savory egg custard that binds the dish, he adds in-season vegetables and a chutney of fig, pear, and apricot for more moisture and body. For customers with adventurous tastes, he gives it the traditional dessert-like garnish of cinnamon, blanched almonds, and powdered sugar. Each bite is a complexity of textures, aromas, and flavors.
In his homeland, b’stilla is an appetizer. At his converted wooden duplex on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Hadj-Moussa has made it a not-on-the-menu special entrÃ©e that his regulars know to ask for. Call ahead to be sure he has it on hand if you’re making the trip over to try it.
720 Grand Ave., St. Paul
W-M, 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m., 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Dinner entrÃ©es $9-15