It's the best kind of East Village secret: candlelight, cocktails, and Moroccan home cooking.The air is thick with North African mystique, but dancers do not come with dinner. Zerza serves Moroccan cuisine the way Moroccan's consume it — free of bells and whistles, bravado, and belly dancing. Zerza recently moved a few doors down to a larger spot, with four rows of dining space to fit more guests for Mediterranean feasts. Couscous is undoubtedly the house specialty: Vegetables Couscous sees veggies simmering in the bottom of a double pot while aromatic steam softens suspended couscous above. Recommend is the Chicken Tagine Lemon entrée; house spices adhere to juicy braised chicken via a coat of lemon preserve with olives on the side. For connoisseurs of the sweet and savory, the Chicken Bastilla is a pastry of minced chicken and almonds finished with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar. Charismatic owner Radouane Eljaouhari describes the skill used to craft Zerza's dishes as the type that a Moroccan mother would pass on to her daughter. What executive chef around these parts possesses such training? It's Radouane's own mother, Taika. Zerza eschews show business in lieu of family business. Here, real culture is a requisite for fine dining.
Vegetables Couscous, $13.95
Chicken Tagine Lemon, $14.95
Chicken Bastilla, $16.75
Short Rib Mrouzia (braised beef with prunes and roasted almonds), $18.75
Moroccan Fish Tagine (marinated fish fillet with olives, spices, and carrots in tomato sauce), $18.75
Saganaki, $7.50 (marinated and fried feta cheese with honey)
Sunday, 1 p.m. to 12 a.m.
MondayThursday, 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.
FridaySaturday: 1 p.m. to 2 a.m.