One of the things I love about South Orange, my town, is that our restaurant options are becoming more diverse– from Ethiopian to Japanese! Most recently, the organic Middle Eastern restaurant Falafel-ly Yours expanded their offerings to traditional Moroccan cuisine. I honestly love this place. I’m addicted to their lamb kebab, which is so juicy and flavorful! But really, everything on the menu is good. Nabil “Robert” Talsmat shares his passion for cooking and the life-changing experience that influenced him to open his own restaurant in downtown SO.
Are you from South Orange? Please tell me about your background, where you live, etc.
I was born in France to a Moroccan father and a French mother. I moved to New Jersey when I was 17 and then moved to Montana where I joined the military reserve. I went to the Culinary Institute of America and Le Cordon Bleu in Seattle. Because I was in the military, I was always moving around a lot. I currently live in Berkley Heights with my wife who is a teacher and my one-year-old son.
What were your past restaurants?
I opened up a restaurant in Montana that focused on wild game. When I was transferred to Seattle I sold the restaurant and opened two in Seattle—one was French and the other seafood. I sold these restaurants and then moved back to New Jersey in 2011. Those two restaurants are still open and doing well in Seattle.
How did you decide to open Falafel-ly Yours in South Orange?
I was 33 and an executive chef at a country club in Summit. During that time I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I had no idea where it came from. After my treatment, I decided to be my own boss. I noticed there was not much in South Orange for restaurant options and wanted to open something new and healthy. I chose all organic Middle Eastern food. After my surgery, I realized it is the food that we are eating that causes cancer. That’s how I chose organic for the food. May 2013 Falafely-ly Yours opened.
Had you always wanted to add My Morocco to the current restaurant? How did the expansion idea come about?
I noticed the Barber Shop went out of business and I didn’t waste anytime expanding into the space. I always wanted to open a Moroccan restaurant and people were asking for it. We kept operating while doing construction on the other side of the wall. I ordered all furniture and seating from Morocco.
What are your favorite items on the Falafel-ly Yours and My Morocco menus?
Lots of people have tried my falafel and love it. They compare it to what they have had in the Middle East. For the My Morocco menu, I took my time and went with the items I grew up eating. Everything on the menu is my favorite—everything is good. I suggest trying any Tagine, especially if you have never had it before. The couscous is also good.
What’s the Jazz schedule and how do you find your bands?
We have jazz and blues on Tuesdays and my wife, Jennifer Starr-Talsmat, sings once a month (she’s a jazz and blues singer as well as music teacher). She helps me book other performers throughout the month. On Wednesdays, we have live traditional Moroccan music from the Atlas Mountains, which starts at 7:30 PM until 10 PM (and world music may be coming soon!). On Fridays and Saturdays, we host a belly dancing show at 7:30 PM and at 8:30 PM. There is no cover!
What else do you want residents to know about you?
I have experience with catering and I can do any type of food. I have two venues that can hold up to 300 people. I can cater weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, etc. I can rent the new addition to my restaurant for private events or even use the private space at SOPAC that holds 300 people. Also, I have access to Orange Tennis Club in South Orange.
Go to http://falafellyyours.com for menu, hours, and more details. Click on an image below for slideshow.