Bienvenue a HARISSA!
HARISSA, the restaurant, pays homage to Chef Alain Cohen’s Tunisian origins, his family’s Paris restaurant, and his American culinary experiences. HARISSA, the name, celebrates the beloved spicy sauce that symbolizes Chef Cohen’s vibrant cuisine. In fact, harissa is so valued in Tunisia that an old wive’s tale says a husband can judge his wife’s affections by the number of hot peppers she uses when preparing his food. Indeed, Chef Cohen’s harissa sauce stays true to the family recipe, that dates back generations to Tunisia—and while our harissa has heat, the emphasis is on balance, not just spiciness
Tunisian cuisine is more savory than its Moroccan neighbor, which leads into the sweet side. Central to Tunisian cuisine is couscous, and you will find the dish well represented in our menu. As well, sample Chef Cohen’s signature Tunisian specialties–including housemade merguez sausage, traditional break pastry, fricassee, and pates a la but argue. Chef Cohen’s sausage making skills are also on display with our housemade charcuterie. And that’s just the beginning...
Chef Cohen has created a menu with something for every taste. Start with our diverse appetizer menu–if your taste leads you small plates & a glass of wine or beer. For a simpler lunch, enjoy our salads and sandwiches. And, if you want to immerse your palate in French Tunisian cooking, well, there is a full page devoted to these satisfyingly classic dishes.
At HARISSA, we pride ourselves on an ongoing commitment to our community and our world. To that end, you will find vegetarian and vegan options both in our lunch & dinner menu, and our dessert menu. As well, a votre santé, we use only 100% grass-fed beef, antibiotic- & hormone-free chicken, and non-GMO canola oil. Finally, round out your dining experience with Chef Cohen’s personally curated wines & beers.
Come to HARISSA. Eat Drink and Enjoy. Chef Cohen’s greatest pleasure is in sharing well-prepared, delicious and satisfying food with everyone. We look forward to seeing you soon. Bon Appetit!
Who is Alain Cohen and why doesn’t he offer no apologies for Kosher?
Another little-known secret is that Tunisia was home to a thriving Jewish community since the 12 century BC. Old Testament documentation reveals that the fishing tribe of Zebulon fished the coral in the area to make the blue color of their religious sacraments, and Jewish graves have been uncovered in the ruins of Carthage. The Jews brought their food with them from biblical Israel and integrated their dishes with the native Berber cuisine and all the subsequent strata that form modern Tunisian cuisine.
However, with the departure of the French leading to Arab ruler ship in the early sixties, following the Algerian war, Tunisian Jews embarked upon yet another Odyssey. They mainly went to France as a whole community and replanted their roots in Paris, Marseille and Nice.
I was born in Tunisia. My family traces their roots back to the destruction of the first temple of Jerusalem in 586 AD. In 1961 my family was part of the exodus that moved to Paris. We brought a suitcase and a few possessions with us. That suitcase was our table the first night we arrived and moved into our apartment.
My dad opened a little place that served drinks and kemia; my mom did the cooking. He kept moving into bigger and bigger places. where his father opened the successful kosher Tunisian restaurant, Les Ailes (“the Wings”) in 1973. I started working there when I was nine years old. When I was a teen-ager I adapted the restaurant to more contemporary French Tunisian fusion cuisine. Les Ailes remained a hub of the Tunisian Jewish community of Paris, and on the must-visit foodie list until it closed a couple of years ago.
But by 1991 I had crossed the Atlantic to establish his roots in Los Angeles, bringing with me all the memories and the recipes of my family. In love with the movies, I arrived in Hollywood to attend film school, but even there I began cooking for more and more new friends until I knew I had to rejoin the culinary world full time. After a series of learning jobs, ranging from catering at the prolific Raleigh Studios to creating progressive, artisanal sandwiches with legendary Nancy Silverton at La Brea Bakery, I opened Got Kosher?, as the original basis of my operation today, a wholesale gourmet sandwich and salad operation.
In answer to the call for kosher catering and in-house dining, I then created a café and catering service that now serves hospitals, airports, hotels, institutions, schools and even the celebrity parties catered by Wolfgang Puck and Patina.
I consider my treasured Tunisian recipes and the ones I have developed over time for Shabbat and catered parties and the restaurants as a reflection of my passion for delicious food that’s kosher, and definitely kosher with no apologies.