While driving into Downtown Raleigh, you may have noticed Babylon, the huge, beautiful restaurant with the pool on the patio. Well I was lucky enough to dine at this lovely place to try out some of their new, re-vamped menu. Owner Samad Hachby has done his best to introduce the amazing tastes of Morocco to the Triangle. While he has certainly succeeded in bringing traditional Moroccan dishes to Raleigh, his re-vamped menu will do even more. He has worked closely with Executive Chef Jean Paul Fontaine to combine both of their expertise and add French and Mediterranean flares to the menu as well. Samad describes the menu as “curious cuisine” because the flavors are mixed in a way that you won’t find anywhere else, but work together beautifully.
As you enter the dining patio it is hard to ignore the beauty of the restaurant, with a reflecting pool and a tent lined with lights. We began our meal here, with a cocktail and a few appetizers. We started with the Chicken Bastilla Rolls ($10), which were indeed a curious cuisine, like nothing I’ve tasted before. They were filled with savory shredded chicken wrapped in filo dough and dusted with powdered sugar. The powdered sugar and cinnamon in the roll gave it a distinct sweet flavor, which, when dipped in the spicy Harissa dip, made for an interesting and exciting mix.
Next, we went inside to the Palace Room, which was definitely one of the more beautiful rooms I’ve ever dined in. The walls were lined with comfortable booths, and the ceiling was a colorful, tiled work of art. Here, we started with a Mediterranean Platter of Hummus, Moroccan marinated olives, roasted peppers, and chickpeas ($9). We also had a bread basket on our table filled with two different types of bread; one more like pita bread, and the other a thicker, fluffier bread. The pita bread dipped in the hummus from the platter was a great start to the meal, and the peppers and chickpeas were incredibly flavorful.
Our first shared entrée was the Duck Confit ($14). I’ve only had duck once before and I wasn’t particularly crazy about it. It had been pretty tough and chewy. This dish, however, was the complete opposite. The duck was incredibly tender and practically fell off the bone. Add that to the fact that the flavors were incredible, especially with the added touch of kumquat, and this was definitely my favorite dish of the night. Next, we moved on to the salmon, which was perfectly pan-seared and served on a bed of greens with house made gnocchi. The greens and cheesiness of the gnocchi gave this dish a more Italian feel than the duck. I am a lover of both salmon and gnocchi, so I’d knew I’d be a fan of this. I loved how the gnocchi was a part of the dish, but didn’t overwhelm the salmon, which was the star.
Our final entrée was the Braised Lamb Tagine ($22). This dish definitely showcased the Moroccan flavors that Samad is so passionate about. The lamb was tender and juicy, and the flavor of the meat perfectly complimented the spices used to season it. We ended our meal with a traditional Moroccan tea, which had a strong, refreshing mint aroma, but a pleasantly light taste. With our tea, we were served three different small cakes. One was a cream puff, which sounds pretty average, but was above and beyond delicious. The cream had a stronger vanilla flavor and was denser than the typical light and airy cream you would find in your average cream puff. We were also served a tiny pound cake topped with, what I could certainly tell, was fresh made caramel. The final was a small chocolate mousse on top of what tasted like a toffee crust, and drizzled with chocolate.
Overall I was very impressed with my meal at Babylon. Each dish brought something totally different to the table (literally), but the combination of flavors and cuisines really worked. Pair that with the beautiful space and you’ve got a winning combination in my book. In addition to menu items like these, you can also get items like Wood-Fired Pizza when you sit outside on the patio with their Wood-Fired Oven. While the restaurant itself might look huge and intimidating from the outside, there really is something for everyone on the menu and I would encourage anyone to give it a try.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to try certain products. This meal or items are usually comped, as these was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.
Melissa Guido is currently a dietetic intern in the Triangle area. She studied nutrition at NC State and Meredith College. Her favorite part about nutrition is showing people that healthy food can be exciting and delicious. Melissa loves traveling and learning about how food fits into different cultures. In her free time she loves trying new restaurants, cooking, and obsessing over her dogs. Follow her on Instagram @made2order and at www.madeorder.wordpress.com.