If you’re one of Williamsburg’s many resident French expats—or even a former tourist, with fond recollections of meandering down Paris’s historic Le Marais—you’ve likely stopped short in front of 188 Grand Street. That’s because upon peeping through the floor-to-ceiling windows, you’ll spy a wall-sized, black and white photo of the pioneering, 40-year-old Chez Omar, credited with irrevocably hooking Parisians on North African cuisine in the 1970s, despite widespread tensions surrounding the aftermath of the Algerian War of Independence.
Glance up, and you’ll realize that the awning proclaims Bar Omar, which should be more than enough to propel you inside of the honey-colored, cumin-scented room. And once there, you might just catch a glimpse of the venerable Omar Guerda himself, intent on schooling a regiment of chefs on preparing his world-famous couscous. But beyond serving as consultant, this is no decades-in-the-making second act for Guerda, who long ago pulled back from day-to-day operations at his flourishing French boite. Instead, he’s simply given his blessing to daughter Yasmina and son-in-law, Aaron Lee, who wished to pay tribute with this faithful outpost, situated in Brooklyn’s own Little Paris.
And so, those tawny sandstorms of steamed semolina (which Guerda is fond of noting is the third favorite meal of the French) have been flawlessly replicated, served family-style with a savory seven vegetable stew and a choice of meats, such as roast chicken, beef brochettes or, best of all, links of lean housemade merguez, along with a saucer of the Maghrebian hot pepper paste, harissa. Tagines, on the other hand—such as a ceramic-domed slow braise of organic Finger Lakes lamb, paved with toasted almonds and molasses-sweet prunes—are an entirely new addition, though recipes still do come courtesy of Guerda’s grandmother, raised in the Kabylian mountains of Algeria. And in lieu of wine, patrons can pair their steak au poivre and bastillas with Dorothy Parker gin-based Omartini’s, or the Daiquiri Pompon, made with white rum, lime and maraschino. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Paris anymore.
188 Grand Street, Williamsburg