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Crêpes galore

BY BEN VERHILLE | APRIL 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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What would appear to be a hole-in-the-wall is actually one of Iowa City's unique and most specialized restaurants in an already specialized town.

With a combination of Moroccan and French influences, chef Hicham Chehouiani brought his unique background and love for quality crêpes to Iowa City for the devoted fans of food.

Growing up in Morocco and raised by French parents, Chehouiani arrived doing exactly what he loves best — concocting high quality crêpe recipes. He believes that about half of the local foodies have traveled outside of the country, so a foreign-influenced restaurant and the only crêperie in town belongs here.

A small town is ideal for both the ingredients and prices. Access to fresh ingredients costs more across the state border, while locally, there is access to reasonably priced Amish-grown eggs for his batter.

The entire menu is divided into two types of crêpes. Most people have only heard of the sweet crêpes, either as a breakfast offering or a dessert. With nutella, strawberries, bananas, and sugar as consistent ingredients on the side, each option makes my mouth water just reading it.

The savory options make this venue different from many crêperies. Savory options are more of an actual meal, with fresh and healthy ingredients.

In order to fully experience this, I ordered one of each. As many of you should if it's a date night.

For the savory option, I ordered La Dinde, served with turkey, Swiss, spinach, and aioli. All of this is in a crepe, if that wasn't clear. The egg base originally concerned me, not being a huge fan of eggs.

But they fell to the side in the yolky factor, with a conservative use of each ingredient. Turkey and spinach are commonly paired ingredients, and the inclusion of Swiss and aioli make one of my favorite sandwich combinations into a new plate entirely. The flavors are pure and rich, the only thing processed was the homemade aioli by the chef himself.

The dessert and sweet option was La Reve, served with nutella, strawberries, walnuts, coconut, and topped with powdered sugar. Originally, it reminded me of a fancy funnel cake, but upon the first bite I realized any comparison between the two is offensive.

Nutella is easily one of my favorite condiments and one of the many causes for physical altercations between one of my siblings and me; luckily, the spread is present in every bite. The subtle crunch of the walnuts are surprisingly light, yet the hints of flavor are undeniably there. The coconut shavings provide a fresh flavor, but mostly found in the aftertaste.

The "meat" of the crêpe comes from the strawberries and bananas, strategically placed so that alternating bites offer a separate flavor. The banana bites are soft and remind me of a beach dessert, while the strawberry samplings give a surprisingly sweet flavor with the sensuality of a Valentine's Day favorite.

With literally nothing left on the plate aside from a few grains of powdered sugar, every bite left me with my eyes closed to indulge in the French Moroccan world of rich flavors.


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