Address: 87 Albert Street
Phone: (09) 309 0933
Cuisine: Moroccan & Algerian cuisine
Sahaa Medina on Albert St is deceptive. From the outside it resembles a bland business block but venture in and you'll find the office space has been give a mystical Moroccan feel. The restaurant has a warm, cosy feel thanks to an impressive collection of multi-coloured glass lanterns, leather poufs and sheer curtain drops.
Many of the starter dishes at Sahaa feature home-made relishes, house-preserved lemons and olives - all made from authentic recipes passed down from owner Makhlouf Benyettou's family.
We began with entrees of dukka with warm bread, falafels and a salad of apricot and orange, all of them to share. The bread is freshly baked on the premises and was deliciously yeasty. Warm hunks were hastily dredged through dark olive oil and patted into the red, dusty dukka.
The falafels were incredible, bearing no resemblance to the dry bullet-like patties served at some of the establishments around town. These little chickpea morsels were soft, light and fluffy on the inside with a thin crunchy outer layer. A gently minted yoghurt dressing completed them.
The salad was fresh and zingy with mint and toasted almonds and we were loving it all, except that our wine was yet to arrive... we'd ordered wine when we sat down but there was a hold-up when our first choice wasn't available.
A word about the wine list at Sahaa - it's not great (limited and pretty standard) but they do offer BYO ($8 per bottle) and mint tea, served in the traditional elaborate tea pot and poured from a great height, so I'd recommend going that way if I were you.
Continuing with our collaborative style of eating we ordered four mains, all placed in the middle of the table.
With one of their specialities being tagines, cooked and served in the authentic conical pots, a chicken tagine was an easy choice. It was flavourful with preserved lemons and olives and doesn't feature the fruit of the lamb tagine (prunes, apples etc) so was tangy and lively. Our only criticism was that the chicken was on the dry side. I'm told they use the whole bird so the cuts can vary from night to night. Stick with the dark meat for a slow cook I say.
The seven spice lamb was the standout main - succulent, richly spiced and served with the bone in, this was slow-cooking at its best. The meat fell away from the bone, there was marrow to be sucked and fragrant gravy to be mopped up with the rice.
Our third main - the chermoula fish - used fresh gurnard fillets, lightly pan-fried with tomatoes, garlic, paprika and coriander and with a citrus note to top it off. Served with homemade, thickly cut potato crisps this was another well-balanced dish.
The fourth main had been much harder to choose. We decided to go for the fig couscous. It proved to be a good move as the mains were large and this vegetarian couscous, packed with onions, carrots, chickpeas, figs and flavoured with cinnamon and orange, proved a good side to accompany the other mains.
Though not the flashest place in town, the food at Sahaa Medina is authentic and it's a perfect place to escape to from the office or for a pre-show dinner.
From the menu: Dukkah and fresh baked bread $10, apricot, mint, orange salad $9, falafel $10, fig couscous $23, seven spice lamb $28.50, chicken tagine $26.50, chermoula fish $26.
Drinks: Wine list, BYO, Moroccan mint tea.