Chef Chat, Part 3: Hicham Nafaa of Majorca Bistro & Tapas

Let the tapas begin...

After our chef chat (see parts one and two), Hicham Nafaa of Majorca Bistro & Tapas first whips up a mix of Majorcan tapas -- warm, open-faced baguettes topped with vegetables (left), Moroccan sausage, and shrimp (right). The vegetarian slice is topped with melting goat cheese and mixed peppers. It's my favorite of the three; the creamy roasted red pepper sauce adds a tangy kick. The same sauce covers the Moroccan sausage (called merguez). The beef sausage is cased in lamb, and the link sits atop a bed of caramelized onions. It's tender and moist, and if you fold the pita-like bread, you can make a delicious mini-Moroccan hot dog! A lone shrimp caps the third slice, curled up under a blanket of wasabi cream sauce.

What will quickly become my favorite dish, pesces sarro, comes out next. It's ceviche with a Majorcan twist. Built on a bed of mint leaves, marinated tilapia, shrimp and scallops form the foundation for this delicious fish fortress. Next comes a thick layer of avocado (guacamole, essentially), and salty olives and almonds sit on top. A dollop of roasted garlic sauce and a sprig of rosemary top it all off. The chunkiness of the avocado, the smoothness of the citrusy fish, the salt of the olives, the crunch of the almonds -- all of these unusual ceviche suspects converge for a nuanced, taste-bud bursting bite.

Brochettas arrive next. These tender beef kebabs are skewered with a medley of grilled veggies and drizzled with roasted pepper and garlic sauce. The saffron rice is hearty and flavorful, and this tapas dish could easily make a satisfying meal.

Speaking of meals, out come the albondigas en salsa picante. This is Nafaa's favorite tapas dish. The albondigas, or meatballs, are cooked inside a tagine. "It originated from Morocco," Nafaa says. "They used to cook everything inside a dish like this." Nafaa cooks fresh tomatoes mixed with a butter sauce for two-and-a-half hours before he even puts the meatballs in. All said, the dish takes about four hours to cook. You can taste it. The steaming process makes the meatballs succulent, and the tomato base is rich in flavor.

Just when I think Nafaa must be running out of tapas, out come the empanadillas. These are a must-order item. The casing is perfect -- flaky, warm dough bursting on the insides with oxtail, almonds, manchego cheese, and a butter sauce. Spicy harissa, roasted red pepper sauce, and garlic cream make it extra juicy. I can't stop thinking about them.

Tres Leches literally melts in my mouth. Creamy and spongy, drizzled with caramel and chocolate, dense with milk...this dessert is downright obscene. I dare you not to eat the whole thing.

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