This past Wednesday eve, I had the opportunity to enjoy some dinner and hookah at Moroccan restaurant and lounge, Le Souk Harem with three co-ed friends, thanks to a deal we got on http://www.thedealist.com/.
At first impression, as the hostess led me to find my friends through a stairway adorned with rose petals and candles, I thought this might be a place that caters mostly to couples. The romantic atmosphere continued as I was led upstairs, where the restaurant opens up into a lounge area, complete with tables all adorned with rose petals and candles. Suprisingly though, there did not seem to be any couples there at the time, rather mostly young professional-y looking groups of people who probably were all there because they bought the same deal we did. However, I was definitely impressed by the ambiance at Le Souk. I was also quite pleased with the service (and I'm not just saying that because of our cute, tattoed, French waiter), although water refills could have come a bit quicker.
Our $30 deal began with a hookah "tasting," but the apple-flavored hookah we chose lasted all four of us throughout our entire dinner. The hookah was surprisingly smooth, but could have been more flavorful. About halfway through our meal, we all noticed the strong scent of rose and realized it was coming, not from the petals all around us, but from our neighbor's hookah. When I asked them about the flavor, we ended up swapping hookahs (each using our own mouthpieces). The rose flavor was very unlike any hookah flavor I had ever tried before. If you can imagine deeply inhaling the scent of a rose, but on your tongue, it was kind of like that, in a good way.
My friends and I all agreed that our first course, the Harira Soup, was the highlight of the evening. It was a warm and flavorfull soup, with chick peas, very thin noodles, and a hint of some spices I could not quite place. Comments such as "that hit the spot" and "that was delicious" could be heard around the table.
The main courses were also quite good. Options included Gratin au Zaalouk (eggplant dish), (chicken stew), Tajine d'Agneau (lamb shank) and Tagine au Pagre Rouge (red snapper dish). My friends ordered two Tajine ah Poulet and a Tajine d'Agneau, and I ordered the Tagine au Pagre Rouge. I did not have the pleasure of trying the chicken, but my friend's response to her first bite was, "Mmm, good...perfectly cooked chicken." My snapper dish was equally tasty, and I was surpised to find that the fish seemed to literally melt in my mouth (after trying unsuccessfully to re-heat scallops for lunch in my work microwave that day, I was prepared for anything). I only felt that the lamb left a little to be desired, and was too tough-- though the friend that ordered it stated that he thought it was the best dish on the table. I should also add that all of our meals were accompanied with buttery rice or cous-cous, which were great compliments.
Other courses included choice of mojito or sangria (we all chose the latter, which was very good and I would definitely recommend), an "assortment of spreads and vines" (hard to tell, but seemed like variations of hummus, definitely a grape leave in the middle) and a round pastry remniscent of baklavah for dessert. These were decent, but nothing particularly special to say, so I'll move on.
The final part of our meal was a glass of warm morrocan mint tea, which I first declined, but then decided I had to have after tasting it. The combination of sugar and mint was a great way to end the meal.
This was a very nice, and not too expensive, way to spend an evening among friends. Apparently, Le Souk offers fairly decent prix fixe menus all year round, starting at $36 per person, but the addition of the hookah (which on its own costs about $25) and cocktail to our own $30 deal definitely made it more worthwhile.
There were only a few small downsides. Around 9:15 or 9:30 p.m. club-style music began blasting through the lounge. This was about the time that the dinner-goers began to funnel out and the singles began to wander in. Also, they carded us even for dinner at 7:30 p.m., so this may not be a place for you if you are under 21, or if you want to enjoy a quiet or romantic meal after 9:00 p.m. The other con is the bathroom size. In an apparent attempt to keep up with their "we're a sexy lounge/restaurant" theme, there was practically no real lighting in the bathroom, which was really more like a closet than a washroom. It reminded me of the bathroom my first studio apartment, where you sat on the toilet and your knees touched the sink. And, it was so over-done on ambience I felt like I should have been having a drunken tryst inside, rather than just using the ladies' room. But if you can deal with that, I would definitely recommend Le Souk for hookah and food.
Le Souk Harem is located at 510 LaGuardia Place.