With the Hounds recommendations firmly planted in my noggin, Z. and I went to Chameau last night for my birthday. We had a terrific time and really enjoyed the food.
Just after being seated, we were given a basket of fresh bread with herbs, similar to a focaccia (sp?) and a dish with eggplant spread, preserved lemon/olive oil dip, and olives. The fellow serving us the bread said that it was freshly baked on the premises. It was excellent, as were the accompaniments.
Z. had the duck bastilla to start and pronounced it great. I had a sample and enjoyed it, too, very deeply spiced and the dough was a far cry from mass-produced filo. I was very pleased, too, with my appetizer--which I could have easily made into a meal. The grilled merguez sausage was itself exceptionally tasty, three skinny links that far surpassed any sausage I'd had in recent memory. But for me, the sides that came with the sausage really pushed the dish into amazing. A roasted pepper and chopped tomato salad was consumed right away, since Z. can't eat peppers and they are among the few vegetables I really love. The peppers were not oily at all, which can often happen with similar dishes. But, ah, the chickpea fries...basically, oblong falafels but much more refined in texture, taste and presentation. Three sauces were featured with the chickpea fries, and I don't know what they were exactly, something creamy with lemon, another creamy sauce not unlike tzadziki, and a fiery hot harissa. I was sorry to stop eating before I had finished everything because I wanted to leave room for my main dish.
Z. ordered the lamb tagine, which I had been eyeing, but I wanted to make sure that we had a little bit of variety, so I ordered the grilled lamb chops with braised spinach and eggplant. I tried the tagine and what little I sampled was also deeply flavorful and redolent of North African spices. The accompanying couscous was obviously not from a mix and also exceptionally flavored. I got a trio of frenched lamb chops on a bed of the aforementioned spinach and eggplant. The lamb was tender and amazing when eaten with the fine slivers of preserved lemon scattered over the plate. And the spinach and eggplant simply melted on the tongue.
With our food, Z. had a Moroccan beer and I sipped what was called "Moroccan Red Sangria." If I had a stronger constitution, I would have gulped the sangria down right away. It wasn't too sweet, but it did have a refreshing fruitiness. As a lightweight, however, I barely drank a third of my full wine glass, and Z. was already commenting on how flushed I'd gotten. So I would alternate between the sangria and my sparkling water.
We split the almond beignets for dessert. I had been anticipating something like a typical beignet, a fried puff of dough, but instead what we were served were three dense little almond cakes that appeared as though they were baked in a mini-muffin tin. It didn't matter that they weren't what we'd anticipated, they were still lovely and not heavy. Each one was topped with a dollop of lemon curd and a single raspberry. The lemon curd occasionally overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the beignet, much the same way that the raspberry coulis occasionally overwhelmed the flavor of the honey ice cream served along with the beignets. But even though certain flavors dominated, it was a nice ending to our meal.
Throughout, service was pleasant and attentive. There didn't seem to be many servers, but we never had to struggle to get someone's attention and everyone was quite friendly and open. I don't know what the restaurant is like on weekends, but I would venture to say that you get all the service you could want during the week. Some tables remained unoccupied throughout the night, but overall, the crowd was lively and appreciative.
I accidentally saw the bill at the end of the night and saw that the total, with two appetizers, one beer, one sangria, a large bottle of sparkling water, two main courses and one dessert came to $98.
It was a lovely evening in a beautiful space with terrific food. I highly recommend this place and thank the Hounds who offered their suggestions.