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Oct 10, 2007 07:07 AM

Elyssa Dido review

My husband and I ate at this new (2 month-old) North African restaurant on Orchard St. last night, and were impressed.

It's a sliver of a place with maybe 25 seats, Moroccan lamps and diverse Arabic/North African/world music playing (I recognized Manu Chao). We started with two excellent salads: grilled shrimp with avocado, feta and fried grape tomatoes for me; and mixed greens with orange, cherry tomatoes, raisins, blue cheese and shaved almonds for my husband. The bread that accompanied them was fantastic, a cross between pita and flatbread that came with a harissa-accented olive oil.

For mains, I went the North African route and had couscous with vegetables. The pitcher of broth to pour over the dish was a necessary accompaniment, giving the couscous moisture (obviously) and also flavor and heat. My husband chose from the more Mediterranean/French-accented portion of the menu, with a delicioius salmon atop sauteed swiss chard and portobello mushroom.

Other notes: the place is currently BYOB. Our Tunisian waiter (and co-owner?) told us Elyssa Dido was a queen of Carthage. We live in the 'hood and this place was empty (another party came in as we were leaving), so we hope it'll do well!

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  1. Stumbled upon Elyssa Dido walking home yesterday, made a reservation (they told us they don't usually take reservations for 2 people) and returned for dinner. It's still BYOB, though they have applied for their wine & beer license.

    It's a small place (long and narrow) with Moroccan decor. Music added to the mood as already noted by JulesEV. There is also a tiny patio.

    We started with the Tunisian Ajja and Elyssa Cigar apps. The Ajja had shrimp (merguez or spicy sausage is another option) and egg in a nice tomato cumin sauce. They also served some warm bread and olive oil with a splash of harissa. We needed more bread to finish off the delicious sauce. We had the cigars with vegetables (lamb is another option) and they were served with a harissa aioli. They were light and crispy.

    For our entree we had the seafood tagine with braised fennel, roasted vegetables, spinach, shrimps, calamari, sea scallops and mussels in a tomato clam sauce. Another satisfying choice.

    They brought around a tray to showcase some of the desserts you could select from. In addition to "the tray" they also had a nutella and banana crepe. We selected the baklava (on the dry side) and also had Turkish coffee (with rose water) and mint tea.

    Elyssa Dido has been open about 8 months and was reviewed by the NY Times circa November 2007. Between the ambience, food, service (I think we had the same Tunisian server as JulesEV) and BYOB couldn't believe this place wasn't more crowded on a Saturday night. When we left there were two tables of 4, two couples, plus a couple on the patio.

    Entrees were under $20, apps were under $10 and it's BYOB ($7 corkage fee).

    Elyssa Dido (North African, Meditteranean Cuisine)
    85 Orchard Street
    Between Broome and Grand

    11 Replies
    1. re: financialdistrictresident

      Thanks for the heads up re the corkage fee. How is that justified, considering alcohol is not available for purchase?

      1. re: small h

        small h, I don't know what is customary re: corkage fees. We were happy to enjoy a Muga Rioja 2003 for only $7 vs. the usual wine mark-up! PS They opened the bottle, provided nice wine glasses, etc.

        1. re: financialdistrictresident

          I guess I don't know what's customary either, but it seems like corkage fees ought to offset a restaurant's financial loss when a diner elects not to buy wine from said restaurant. But if the restaurant doesn't even sell wine...well, $7 seems like a lot to pay to rent some glasses for a couple of hours.

          I can appreciate that you saved money overall, though.

          1. re: small h

            small h, last night we had dinner at a new restaurant in our neighborhood. They don't have a wine/beer license yet either and there was no corkage fee. Go figure.

            1. re: financialdistrictresident

              fdr, that's been my (admittedly limited) experience - when a place is waiting for a liquor license, you're permitted to bring in alcohol free for nothing. I brought my own at The Orchard and at Mole on Allen Street in their early days. That's why I was surprised to learn of Elyssa Dido's policy. Live and learn. Won't keep me from trying the place, because it sounds nice.

              1. re: small h

                small h, is Mole still BYOB? I haven't been there since they first opened.

                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                  Nope. I was pretty underwhelmed on my one & only visit, so I never returned. Look! we're co-threaded here as well!


                  Re-reading my old post, I see that Mole had their liquor license when I was there. Yet I distinctly remember bringing Dos Equis with me. Must've snuck it in.

      2. re: financialdistrictresident

        We have been back twice since. Not sure what we'll do once we've eaten our way through the menu. We had a chicken dish that was delicious and cooked perfectly, among other apps and entrees as well. My SO said the chicken dish was the best he ever had at a restaurant. Only downside was one time we left smelling like food (smoke in the kitchen? It's a small place) and one time the service was very relaxed.

        1. re: financialdistrictresident

          Edit: the chicken dish was Elyssa Charmoula. Also, their bread is fabulous. fdr

          1. re: financialdistrictresident

            Went to Elyssa Dido again last night. Had another delicious dinner on the patio. The owner told us they are no longer BYOB. They still don't have their wine license. Apparently they received a warning for permitting BYOB. Does anyone know what's up? Or is this related to the LES/CB3 issues?

            1. re: financialdistrictresident

              Tried to make reservations for dinner tomorrow and phone is not in service and website is no longer accessible. A little gem that didn't make it. So sad.

      3. This is funny! I had heard it closed. Ate there about a year ago and LOVED it. Food was awesome and the peppermint tea (although expensive) was unbelievable.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mmgymteach

          BYOB in New York City is illigal according to the State Liquor Authority home page and a restaurant can actually be denied there license if they are caught allowing patrons to bring in their own bottles or giving away drinks. So heads up...if you like a restaurant be please understand it is difficult for them as well. The laws in New York are a tad crazy. There is also a freeze on any new licenses in CB3, which is the EV, LES

          1. re: sallyannemarie

            Thanks for the heads-up sallyannemarie. Interesting since so many NYC restaurants do this. Maybe the law wasn't enforced? Just read on that the NY SLA head is out. Wish CB1 would do the same before Front Street becomes another Stone Street (wall-to-wall restaurants with liquor licenses).