A new and improved Casa La Femme in the West Village.
140 Charles St., and Washington St.
Dinner: Sun. – Tue., 5p.m. – midnight: Wed. – Sat., 5p.m. – 3a.m.
Vibe: Sultry and exotic lounge
Occasion: Intimate date, group grazing
Don’t-miss dishes: Salataa tamatem, grilled lamb chops, baklava
Average prices: Appetizers, $8; entrees, $20; dessert, $7.95.
Tent prix fixe, $55 per person.
How often do you get to eat dinner in a tent? And when you do, the
bathroom is usually the great outdoors. But at Casa La Femme, a new
restaurant that opened six weeks ago in the West Village, your table is
tented in white organza from Egypt. At Casa La Femme, there’s a glass chandelier and chair in every bathroom.
fact, just about everything in the 200-seat restaurant is imported from
Egypt — the walls, wood tables, 250 chairs, cheese, hand-carved bar up
front, three limestone fireplaces and the fire pit in the center of the
dining room. (Can you imagine the shipping costs?)
The owners, Medhat Ibrahim and Anastasios Hairatidis,
have taken the idea of “setting the scene” to a new level. I’ve now
eaten at all three Casa La Femmes, and I like the newest location, 140
Charles St., the best.
The first Casa La Femme opened back in 1991
on Wooster St. in SoHo. But in 2004, the SoHo restaurant lost its lease
and moved to east midtown until 2008. Somehow, I don’t think uptown
moms with strollers were the target audience for northern Egyptian
The new Casa La Femme looks like honest exoticism, not like Egypt by way of Disney’s Epcot
— especially if you reserve one of the tented tables. You could hide
out in your tent all night, but then you’d miss the belly dancers.
though you can’t eat decor or the belly dancers, they both make the
food taste a little better. The menu is mostly a grazing menu, so
start with some mazzas, Egyptian for starters. The best part is the
pita, which resembles one of those puffed-up Jiffy Pop pans, except
these are speckled with parsley, rock sea salt and sesame seeds. Think
of the pita as an edible plate to smear with a terrifically smoky baba
ghanouj, with a dab of tahini.
Or toss the salata tamatem on top
with Gibnah Domiaty, a really creamy Egyptian cheese with minted grape
tomatoes. The lamb chops fatta, cooked with the fat on as they do in
northern Egypt, are seasoned with red pepper, oregano and rosemary.
Oddly enough, the best thing on the menu at Casa La Femme is the French
fries — Egyptian-style fries that are cooked in fat and spiced with
rock sea salt.
As lovely as everything is, the menu is a little uneven. The chicken
— the firakh mashwaya — was oversumac-ed and too ordinary to order. And
the warak enab, stuffed grape leaves, were too cold and slimy, an
occupational hazard among grape leaves.
Hummus deserves to be wonderful, not the bland thin hummus they
serve here. As for the accessories, the baklava — dampened with
cinnamon syrup — is delicious. Skip the wines (the list is limited and
pricey) and order a cocktail instead. I like the Lemonada — a citrusy
cocktail with lots of fresh mint and a splash of Champagne.
At Casa La Femme, you may not be in northern Egypt exactly, but
while you’re there waiting for a camel to poke its nose under the tent,
the recession feels a long way away.