French and Moroccan Fusion at Barbès
A new restaurant opening in Hoboken isn’t exactly surprising; we see dozens of new spots open and close each year. Most of those, however, are within a fairly predictable sphere: We see a lot more lunch and casual spots than more formal dinner spots with a full bar, and we see a short list of cuisines heavy on the Italian and Latin varieties. Nothing wrong with that—some of our best places for a bite are casual spots of the Italian or Latin variety—but it’s always nice to see something unexpected.Which is why the opening of Barbès at 1300 Park Avenue (where the Tonic Bar & Restaurant once resided, and which has been mostly empty for a long time) is so exciting. A sit-down spot with a full bar that’s serving a fusion of French and Moroccan cuisine? Yes, please, and twice on Sunday. We couldn’t wait to check it out.
New York’s Loss
Barbès has actually been a fixture in the New York restaurant scene for more than fifteen years. Opened by Omar Balouma and Abdellah Ksiyer (Balouma comes from France and Ksiyer is Moroccan), it was instantly popular across the river. Balouma moved his family to Hoboken years ago, and when the building Barbès was housed in got sold, they saw an opportunity to reinvent the place as Hoboken’s newest hot spot.The place has been done up nicely—there’s an instantly comfortable vibe when you walk in. Everyone greets you—and we mean everyone—and makes you feel at home right away. The space is well-used; they’ve managed to get a lot of tables in there without making the place feel crowded, and the full bar is a welcome sight. They have a solid wine list that avoids a big mistake some places have made in recent years by offering a mix of French, Italian, and Californian wine, and they also have a rotating list of specialty cocktails.[caption id="attachment_13686" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]
A full bar to make the heart sing.[/caption]
The service is fantastic without being overly intrusive. The staff was friendly and good-natured while being helpful in every way, eager and able to explain dishes we weren’t familiar with and to offer advice on portion size or substitutions. Our table enjoyed the Salade Méditerranéen (Zaalouk, hummus, chackchouka, tomato & arugula)[caption id="attachment_13687" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]
Salade Méditerranéen[/caption]and the Briouats (Moroccan pastry rolls filled with chicken & almond) to start.[caption id="attachment_13689" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]
Briouats for the Win[/caption]The Salade was incredibly fresh and delicious, and the Briouats were the perfect bite to get us started. For the main dish, we ordered Couscous Royale (traditional Moroccan couscous with lamb, chicken & merquez)[caption id="attachment_13688" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]
Couscous Royale[/caption]which was amazing, along with a rack of lamb special that was perfect.[caption id="attachment_13690" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]
Someone had to remind me to stop eating long enough to take a photo.[/caption]We also got an order of French Fries because our personal policy is to always order the fries if they’re available.After dinner, we ordered both of the available desserts, a chocolate mousse for the French side and a Pistilla for the Moroccan side, and both were incredible. Pictures are unavailable because our animal natures took over and we fell on those desserts with a purpose before we could compose ourselves.
Final verdict: Barbès is a wonderful addition to Hoboken’s nightlife. Nestled in a pretty quiet spot, its great food, stocked bar, and aura of understated class and cheerful service makes it an immediate standout, at least for us. We’re going back as soon as possible, and you should get there too.