Pasha, a Moroccan restaurant and rooftop bar in Kampong Glam’s whitewashed boutique hotel The Sultan, is about as close to the medina as you can get in Singapore. Set up by Lamine Guendil, the Frenchman born in northern Africa who previously helmed Club Street’s successful Senso Ristorante & Bar and Spizza, it’s a heady mix of sensual Moroccan decadence and white-tablecloth fine-dining. It’s surely the plushest Moroccan restaurant in town, even if there’s not much competition.
You come into the restaurant via the rooftop bar, with its tents and white sofas, down into the more formal 55-seat dining room. Guendil, who travels extensively to Morocco, has clearly paid attention to authentic detail, from the soft-lit, artisan-crafted lanterns to the Berber carpet hangings and light fittings crafted from army shields. Aladdin-vested waiters fl oat around the restaurant, as exotic lounge music pulses from the speakers.
The food, with its Arab, Berber, Mediterranean and Moorish influences, comes from Morocco-born executive chef Said Ibrahimi. At its core is his house-made ras el hanout blend of 27 spices for the cooking of meat, and extravagant imported Argan oil – proof that the restaurant takes its food seriously. The menu is maximalist, with big portions and ingredients almost as plentiful as the exotic spices.
For starters, a fish sharmoula kebab ($16) consists of two juicy skewers of herb- and cumin-marinated codfish, served with a minty tabbouleh couscous (lemon-and-olive-dressed pasta cucumber, tomato, parsley and mint salad) and Méchoui salad (a piquant ratatouille of tomatoes and green peppers). Highlights in the huge mezze selection ($18), a dish easily big enough for two, include salmon wrapped in grape vines, moist and tangy eggplant chutney, grilled prawn skewers, and tender chicken skewers served with an addictive, chilli-hot harissa paste.
A must-try is the couscous merguez ($26) – four meaty grilled lamb sausages nestled over a bed of fluffy, cinnamon-dusted couscous. On the side, mildly spiced and stewed vegetables include eggplant, chickpeas, carrot and pumpkin yield comfortable, acidic notes. For something more familiar, the cilantro-herbed chicken tagine ($26) is perfectly tender, the leg and breast meats bathed in a delicate jus with green olives and zesty preserved lemon. The attentive staff will bring as much couscous as you need to soak up the savoury juice.
Inspired by his mother’s desserts from childhood, Ibrahimi underwent pastry chef training in Paris. At their best his sweet creations are a triumph: his moist, dense signature slilou cake ($15) combines layers of chocolate and roasted nuts with medjoule-date mousse, anise chocolate gelée and fig ice cream. Less successful are the tough Bride’s Fingers ($15), orange water-scented ground almonds rolled in thin pastry and sesame seeds, with fig ice cream.
Though the service was generally good, there were a few hiccups on our visit. An icy pour of shiraz ($18) seemed to have spent the night in the fridge, and we had to forgo tea as the kitchen had run out of the essential mint herb. But these are minor quibbles; Pasha makes for one of the most sensuous dining experiences you can have in this city. Yvonne Ruperti
Main courses $26-$38.
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