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Walima in Astoria Review (long)


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Walima in Astoria Review (long)

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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