Zerza Reopens With a Little Indian Flair

IMG_0250Sarah Darville Radouane Eljaouhari beside his new clay tandoori oven.

When Radouane Eljaouhari moved into his new location on East Sixth Street, he told contractors clearing out a shuttered Indian restaurant to not completely gut the kitchen. Now, what was once a lark for Mr. Eljaouhari and his chefs at the new location of his Moroccan restaurant Zerza has turned into a permanent cross-cultural twist.

Instead of a traditional Moroccan grill, meat dishes are cooked in a clay tandoori oven leftover from Angon on the Sixth, which closed in 2010. (Another Indian restaurant briefly occupied the space after Angon).

The clay oven gets twice as hot as the Moroccan grill, and “makes the meat cook without burning it,” Mr. Eljaouhari said. “It’s juicy, and that’s not the case with the grill, where it touches the flame sometimes. So this is a treat.”

IMG_0241Sarah Darville The new restaurant.

The new location opened two weeks ago just a few doors down from the previous location, which closed in May. At first the owner of the four-year-old restaurant worried that longtime customers would think he was switching to Indian cuisine. But now that a few weeks-worth of customers have been pleased, he said he plans to trumpet the tandoori treatment on his menus.

Other changes are smaller: new lamps and colorful tagines (clay dishes) brought back from Morocco, more seafood on the menu, and seating for about 10 more people. The new restaurant also only serves beer and wine, after Mr. Eljaouhari decided not to apply for a full liquor license to avoid conflict with the community board. Last year, he told The Local he chose not to pursue a transfer of his liquor license because of opposition from the board. (Fortunately, no one asked for a cocktail this past weekend, he said.)


IMG_0245Sarah Darville The menu.

Zerza, 320 East Sixth Street, near Second Ave.; (212) 529-8250​​

Update | 3:59 p.m. An earlier version of this post said that Mr. Eljaouhari asked the previous occupants to leave the tandoori clay pot. That is incorrect. He asked his own contractors not to remove the pot.