Tag Archives: alphabet city

Chouchou

Chouchou (pronounced “shoe-shoe”) is a relatively new (eight months old) Moroccon restaurant in Alphabet City. The name is a French term of endearment; a word that you might use to refer to your spouse, like “babe,” “doll face,” or “sweet tits.” Actually I think it translates more easily to “little love” or something. But I wanted to use the word “tits” there somehow, because I talk about breasts quite a bit in this review.

In any case, the restaurant is cozy inside, and decorated in such a way that it transports you to the middle east. With cavernous archways on the ceiling and faux-ancient stone walls, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped off the streets of NYC and into a quaint, rustic and romantic dining space in Morocco. Even the sweet mint tea that they serve in small glass cups smacks of authenticity.

The place boasts a very impressive wine menu, which can be seen via PDF HERE. They also have a small selection of really deliciously described craft beers.

The first thing that struck me about this joint, aside from the amazing decor, was the simplicity and focus of the food menu. There are a handful of couscous dishes and a handful of tagine dishes, utilizing largely the same set of proteins: chicken, lamb chops, kefta (seasoned meatballs), merguez (spicy lamb sausage), lobster, a veggie option, etc.

I came to learn that this is how Moroccans traditionally eat: a basic array of starters; some sort of meat item, either with couscous or slow cooked in a tagine; and simple desserts. I like it.

Each entree comes with a collection of starters or mezes included in the price.

Warm pita bread with baba ganoush, hummus, shakshuka, and harissa-spiced almonds, to be precise. Of these, my favorite was the hummus (left of the pita).

While I don’t believe the tagine dishes are actually cooked in tagines (health department and fire codes likely prevent this in NYC), they are presented in beautiful decorative tagines.

I tried the savory lemon and olive chicken tagine, as well as the sweeter prune and lamb tagine. Both were great. The chicken tagine came with a generous half chicken, bone-in. The skin was crisp, and the meat was tender and juicy – with the exception of the breast meat, which was slightly dry in parts. It happens.

I think if tagine cooking were happening in NYC, dry knockers would be a less likely outcome. Tented, closed-vessel cooking preserves juiciness and airborne vapors, while oven cooking involves a dry heat. That being the case, perhaps a Dutch oven technique would be better for these dishes.

While I enjoyed the savory flavors of the chicken tagine better than the sweet-ish flavors of the lamb tagine, I liked the juiciness and succulence of the lamb better. It was almost like a braise, perfectly cooked to fall-off-the-bone tenderness. No dryness whatsoever.

The couscous dishes come with a beautiful plate of couscous, your desired choice of protein, and a bowl of stew juice that contains potatoes, beef, lamb and peppers.

I tried the mixed protein option, called “royal.” This came with chicken, lamb chop, kefta and merguez.

All of the meats were good and juicy, again with the exception of the chicken being a bit dry in the jugs. But when you mix the meats together with the stew juice and couscous, there’s not much to worry about in terms of dry mammaries. It was delicious.

Desserts here are made in house, and consist of a variety of traditional Moroccan pastries and cookies. I was only able to try two – an almond pastry and an orange flavored cookie – but both were excellent.

Dry chicken hooters aside, I would definitely come back here again, and I highly recommend this place for a romantic date night. And again only parts of the chicken (boobs) were dry. The rest was perfect.

NOTE: A public relations professional invited me and a group of food writers to Chouchou to taste the food and review the place.

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

Yerba Buena

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS CLOSED!

My sister told me about this place a while back, and she later got me and my wife a gift certificate so that we’d give it a shot. Specifically, she told me to try the “poquito picante” cocktail, made with gin, cucumber, jalapeno and lime. It was really delicious. It had that heat from the jalapeno, but it was rounded out nicely with the sweetness from the lime syrup and then cooled off with the cucumber. My wife tried the “concoction,” a fresh fruit riff on a classic egg white whiskey sour. We ordered both cocktails at the bar while we waited for our table, and we were happy to learn that all drinks were half price for an all-day happy hour at the bar on Sundays.

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We started with a hamachi ceviche. This was fresh and flavorful, and garnished with sesame seeds and dried, puffed corn. It had a mild flavor and wasn’t too overpowering on the citrus.

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We also shared this trio of fries: hearts of palm, avocado and watermelon.

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These were really interesting. The avocado was super creamy, as expected. The hearts of palm had some starchiness to it, about which we were both a bit surprised. They tasted great though. The watermelon was an even bigger surprise, however. It was sweet, yet savory, and crunchy, yet juicy. It went perfectly with the smokey ketchup that was served with these fries.

For her entree, my wife ordered the Lechon Confitado, which is suckling pig with sunchoke-black truffle puree and kale-red chiles.

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This was the winning dish. The pork was cooked perfectly – like a juicy pulled or shredded pork without the over-saucing that typically occurs at BBQ joints. The confit coking method surely helps in that regard. It was topped with some greens and pickled red onion. The earthy and delicious sunchoke puree was drizzled around the plate.

I intended to order the rib eye that was listen on the menu, but they were out. Instead, they offered me a skirt steak, so I gave that a try.

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It was cooked nicely to medium rare, but just wasn’t up to standard with some of the other places I’ve had skirt recently.

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I’d say this came in at about a six out of ten for a combination of flavor and quality. It was juicy, but did have a bit of bleed-out, and lacked a good sear on the outside.

It was served with an avocado, tomato and onion salad, and some yucca fritters.

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For dessert, we shared the “panqueques,” crepes filled with dolce de leche and served with a scoop of ice cream. The menu said it would be pistachio ice cream, which we were excited about, but they gave us chocolate instead.

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In any case, dessert was delicious. The crepes were made fresh, and the dolce de leche was smooth and creamy.

This is definitely a place worth visiting if you’re in the Alphabet City area and looking for a bite or cocktail.

YERBA BUENA
23 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009

Minca

Minca is a little spot on East 5th Street between Avenues A and B.

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I stopped in for a nice hot bowl of pork broth ramen to warm up from the insane cold. The broth itself was a little thin and watery, but the quality of the pork meat within was definitely excellent. I tend to like a more thick or viscous broth – something approaching sauce almost. Flavor was definitely heavy on garlic. I typically don’t mind that, but it came close to bitterness in this case.

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Mushrooms, egg, scallions and all other toppings were good quality.

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I liked the thin, strait noodles. Nice and al dente, how I prefer them:

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I’d definitely go back to try the spicy (which I had ordered “on the side” but they didn’t give me a blob of it).

MINCA
536 E 5th St
New York, NY 10009