There’s no shortage of cute little restaurants in Alphabet City, but if you’re looking for a relaxed and romantic Moroccan restaurant, Chouchou fits the bill with its “cozy” seating and rustic decor and old-country archways. AND it’s extra sweet since the name is a term of affection in French. If that and the extremely extensive wine list doesn’t win you points with your date, you may be sh*t out of luck. We had a press dinner at Chouchou with a group of other food bloggers and basically got to try most of the savory options on the short menu. Honestly, I think it’s a smart idea: the chef knows what she wants to make and focuses on it. Also, it’s a super small space and we were impressed that all this food could come out of this kitchen!

We kicked off our meal with seasonal starters that are included with the entree. Today it included spiced deviled eggs (what a great creamy bite), shakshuka with eggplant and

baba ghanoush

(personally I don’t like eggplant, but the flavor and texture weren’t overpowering), hummus with green pesto (SO smooth and tasty), harissa spiced almonds (LOVED this snack), and a rich harissa sauce in tiny pots you could add to anything and everything (I love anything in cute, tiny containers and this was excellent with a light, warm spice flavor). And the pita bread was toasty, fresh out of the oven and so light and soft. You can easily fill up on the mezzes, but save room for your couscous or tagine!

There are 4 options for tagines (lamb, chicken, lobster, or vegetarian) and 4 options for couscous entrees (lamb chops, kefta, chicken, or merguez sausage). OR… there’s also a lovely sampler option called Couscous Royal which lets you try one lamb chop, a chicken leg, a piece of kefta, and one merguez link. I ordered that and was quite pleased. The lamb chop and merguez were my favorite

of these.

All the couscous dishes come with a large serving of beautifully plated couscous and a bowl of stew with potatoes, peppers, lamb and beef in case your meat comes out a tad dry. Most of the dishes are a show in itself with the proteins brought out in colorful tagines. Due to NYC heath codes, the proteins aren’t really cooked in tagines; they’re plated in beautiful tagines upon serving. And when the cover is lifted… get ready for the “oohs” and “ahhs”

and the enticing smells!

I was also able to try the chicken tagine, served with plump green olives and a citrusy, salty lemon sauce

. We were impressed with the presentation of half a chicken, unfortunately the breast part was a bit dry. Nothing mixing the couscous and stew broth couldn’t fix though!

I really liked the lamb tagine with the tender, braised meat. It was cooked with prunes and apricot, creating a thick sweet sauce pairing and making the protein pieces super soft and flavorful.

We got the chance to meet Chef Meryem Mitra, one of the sweetest and talented people cooking. She was so humble about her craft, I appreciated her work even more. Chef Mitra talked about how the desserts were made in house and the cookies changed based on her tastes and experiments each day. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take advantage of all the interesting sounding dessert plates and was only able to try a small piece of an orange cookie covered in powdered sugar. That tiny piece was good, I would have loved to highlight the desserts since (hello!) they’re my specialty. There were three different desserts brought out of three different kinds of cookies, but two of the desserts were snatched up and eaten before I could try, and the third plate had three different kinds of powdered cookies (pistachio, orange and regular) so I only got to try a bit of the orange cookie. Wish I could tell you more about the desserts since they sounded so authentic and creative!

I’d like to come back and try the lobster tagine, check out the different starters for the day, and taste more of the desserts!

Chouchou
215 E. 4th St.
New York, NY 10009

www.chouchounyc.com