Instead of having a crazy night out at a party, we decided to celebrate New Year's in style at a restaurant. Miss Jess, one of my ladies from California, is here visiting her boy, Ian, so they joined the Boy and me for dinner at a Moroccan Restaurant, Zerza.
Zerza is a dark, two-story restaurant in the East Village. When we entered, we were told by a busy waitress to wait for the owner before we were seated. We stood in the entryway for several minutes until the owner arrived, then were led upstairs to a table for four next to the main window. We sat down and ordered a bottle of Champagne while we perused the menu.
As it was New Year's Eve, the menu was a special, limited one, a 3-course prix fixe for $39. Nevertheless, we all had a hard time deciding what we wanted!
The waitress brought up the bottle of "the best Champagne we have" and served it. Unfortunately, I was unable to check what kind of Champagne it was, but it was absolutely delicious.
Our appetizers came soon after we ordered. The Boy and Miss Jess both ordered the Grilled Merguez, lamb sausage with tomato sauce. I didn't taste them, but apparently they were rather typical merguez, though surprisingly moist. The tomato sauce mitigated the usual saltiness.
Ian gobbled down his Moroccan Cigars, Spiced ground beef cigars with goat cheese, without offering anyone so much as a taste, so I assume he enjoyed them.
My Spicy Prawns, Sauteed spicy prawns with chermoula sauce, were extremely tasty, though not exactly spicy. The prawns were plump and sweet and the chermoula taste tasted very strongly of the fresh tomatoes with which it was prepared, with just a hint of garlic and cumin.
Before our entrees arrived, we finished our Champagne and ordered a bottle of Guerrouane Rouge, Morrocan red wine. The wine was good, pretty light, and smooth, with just a touch of spice. It was a more fruity wine than dry.
For our main dishes, three of us ordered the same thing--the Tagine Lamb Barkouk, Slow-cooked stew of lamb shank with apricots, prunes and almonds. It was delicious, the lamb falling off the bone and the prunes melted into the sauce. The apricots added a nice tangy break to what would be an overpoweringly sweet sauce, and the almonds were a perfect textural change. It also came with a small side of couscous--wonderful in the sauce. However, we would have liked a little more couscous, missing the massive quantities to which we had grown accustomed in Paris.
Miss Jess was the iconoclast and chose instead the Chicken Bastilla, Moroccan phyllo dough pie stuffed with shredded chicken, onions and eggs. Again, I didn't have a taste, but the presentation was impressive, the phyllo dough really puffed up. And Miss Jess cleaned her plate and said she fully enjoyed herself.
Desserts were also included in the prix-fixe, so the Boy and Miss Jess ordered Homemade Fig Ice Cream which was very good, not extremely sweet but creamy and tasting strongly of fresh figs.
Ian went for a Flourless Chocolate Cake, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was extremely dense, but similar nonetheless to a souffle. In fact, it was so rich he couldn't finish it!
I gave into a weakness and ordered Baklava. This may have been the best Baklava I've ever had, served warm, the honey oozing out of it. Nevertheless, it managed not to be over-poweringly sweet, the phyllo ver buttery and, again, tasting homemade.
After dinner, we shared a Jasmine hookah which was wonderful, "like Jasmine tea without the tea," as Miss Jess aptly described it. At midnight, we were presented with free glasses of Champagne, not as good as the bottle we shared earlier, and various noisemakers and hats. Then a belly-dancer entered and entertained all of us for a long while, even convincing several diners to dance with us. While watching, the Boy ordered a cocktail, a Casablanca (he was attracted by its name) . Too sweet for me, it tasted like Grenadine, Campari, Sprite and Rum. Bright red in color, it was served ice-cold in a martini glass. Ian and I had more traditional after-dinner drinks, glasses of Port, although we were told it was brandy. Luckily, I prefer port.
This was a truly enjoyable evening--good fun, good wine and good friends. We'll definitely return, hopefully when they have belly-dancing again.
304 E. 6th Street
New York, NY 10003
Food and Drink and Restaurant and New York and Moroccan and New+Year's+Eve