>> Atlas Mountain | Eat the World New York City

23 March 2015

Atlas Mountain

MOROCCO

Since Bay Ridge's La Maison du Couscous closed years ago, the city has in my opinion had a void in Moroccan food that is not quite filled by the options available. A couple new places have opened or reopened around town, and Atlas Mountain is the first of those I will check out.

In Morocco, eating out was limited from what I saw to locals finding their way to a bowl of harira at a night market. Most cooking went on inside of the home, and tourists were left with sub-par versions of Moroccan tagines and other dishes at restaurants that were only in existence to feed them. Pulling up to a bowl of harira, always served with a healthy slice of good bread was a treat in itself though, and something I usually did at least once an evening. I was early to dinner at Atlas Mountain and thought there could be no harm in ordering the harira ($3.50, below) to tide me over until my friends arrived. At this price point, I was very surprised to see a giant mug of the soup arrive with a full basket of bread. Technically this is a vegetarian soup, but it is filled with lentils, chickpeas, and small noodles, and so is very hearty. The broth is tomato based, but the spicing of saffron, ginger, and pepper is what really leaves the impression.


A cup of Moroccan mint tea ($2, above) is about as traditional as it gets with the cuisine, and tea service for four will run you $6, coming in a silver pot with glassware. Be sure to add a lot of sugar if they haven't already, for when in Rome...

In addition to the steam table of tagines, there is a cold case with mainly vegetable options. We asked for a variety plate ($8, below) which contained (clockwise from beets) pickled beets, red and green peppers, a smokey eggplant, and slightly sour spinach, all of which were enjoyed.


Tagines here do not come in the conically-lidded ceramic plates you usually find, but are well-stewed nonetheless. The lamb tagine ($10, below) is a very large plate with a Flintstones-esque hunk of meat on the bone served with stewed vegetables and yellow rice. It is more than enough for one person. The lamb is tender and fresh, falling right of the big bone.


Part of the joy of Atlas Mountain is the atmosphere, as most or all of your dining companions will be local North African families, with kids running around and adults discussing the politics that are on Arab-language Al-jazeera TV in the front. Either way, it is fun to soak it all in even if only here for a cup of sweet mint tea, and the proprietors will treat you as their friend just as they do their regulars.

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