Hidden behind a sultry, unmarked storefront, Chouchou is easy to miss, but impossible to forget. No sign or lights mark the way to this secret corner.
Gaining its name from a French phrase that acts as a term of endearment, best likened to “darling,” the restaurant has plenty of critical praise and positive press despite its unassuming façade.
I can honestly say that Chouchou a place I would never have found if I had not been invited to a private tasting dinner.
Its Moroccan menu primarily offers two sets of either meat or vegetables: tagine and couscous. It looks very limited, but between the execution and the parade of familiar Mediterranean appetizers, it’s a charming and engaging journey. Executive Chef Meryem Michra is talented at all the classics, but also has plenty of twists in store.
Hummus, baba ganoush, pita, and shakshuka all make an appearance here. I found them simple yet well executed in the standard fashion.
The most exciting of the appetizers were large deviled eggs filled with paprika and other spices. Mostly known as being a European appetizer, Chouchou’s version has plenty of personality. They were creamy and smooth with a lightly peppery yet satisfyingly umami flavor that contrasted with their cool temperature. They served us three halves that I would have gladly devoured all by myself. When a fellow diner admitted they were allergic to yolks, their portion found a most happy home in my gullet.
Amongst the entrees, I was most impressed with the chicken and lamb tagines.
The chicken tagine was pleasing in both appearance and flavor. Its golden skin was streaked with crimson. Chef Meryem told me she bastes it with herbs then cooks it in the olive sauce before baking the flavor into it again. The result ends up being moist morsels of mainly dark meat encased in a crispy cocoon of skin.
If it weren’t for the bones, I would have thought the lamb was more liquid than solid. It slid off that easily. Served with plump apricots and prunes sweet as candy, it was a savory, refreshing oasis devoid of gamey toughness or bitterness.
For dessert, we enjoyed some tiny almond cookies and other assorted pastries. With hints of aromatic spices between each breaded bite, I felt a bit like I was carried on a desert wind.
I would like to give special mention to the green tea, which was poured in the traditional, flashy Moroccan fashion—from a great height. It acted as the perfect palette cleanser between courses and very much both woke me up and welcomed me with invigorating doses of sugar. It was so lively and refreshing I opted to skip out on the wine in favor of more of that sweet, sweet tea.
Between the meat, the tea, and those luscious deviled eggs, Chouchou is definitely a restaurant I hope to revisit. For now, it will remain in the shadows, but seldom does a secret spot like this stay that way for long.
Address: 215 East 4th Street (Between Avenues A & B)
Phone: (646) 869-1423
Hours: 5:30 PM-12:00 AM Midnight from Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays.