Bab Dar is the latest venture of Jihad Assabi, the man behind Kif Kif in Flagey. Moroccan-born Assabi is clearly a man on a mission; or rather, two missions.
The first is culinary, and boy does he succeed. My companion and I shared a starter billed as an assortment of delicate salads. Our table was invaded by twelve tiny dishes, each containing bite-sized treats combining vegetables with spices and/or fruit. Highlights included sliced carrots with sesame and rolled-up aubergine slices stuffed with almond paste.
Next up, my partner’s main course was a grilled fish platter. The garnish was a bit spartan but the fish – red mullet, John Dory plus Mediterranean and tiger prawns – had been expertly grilled. My tajine of chicken with confit lemon, meanwhile, was textbook: the sauce intense but not overpowering, while the slow-cooked meat fell off the bone in succulent shards. “Why do people bother with chicken breasts?” my other half wondered. Quite.
Finally, we shared a dessert of strawberries in orange flower water syrup, served with gazelle’s horn-flavoured ice cream (note to GAIA, PETA et al.: gazelle’s horns are incredibly moreish almond-based North African pastries). Very sweet yet refreshingly cleansing.
Throughout, we drank a ballsy Moroccan shiraz (€36), which went down easy; gone are the days when North African wines meant headache-inducing rosés. Menus are €35 for three courses or €40 for four, while mains are all below €20.
So, what about Assabi’s second mission? It would appear that the man believes in old-fashioned values such as goodwill and kindness. Hence the enormous portraits of Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa in the main dining room. Likewise, the bottom of the menu reads ‘B’Sahha/Beteavon’ – that’s ‘bon appétit’ in Arabic and Hebrew. World peace through fine cuisine and friendly service? Genius.
Bab Dar, 85 Chaussée de Charleroi, 02.534.96.49, www.babdar.be