Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kous Kous Cafe - a claustrophobic treat in Mt. Lebanon


Last night, DB~ had to work late so we agreed to meet somewhere in the Mt. Lebanon area to eat. After much list-making and brainstorming, we decided on Kous Kous Cafe at 665 Washington Road (main drag through Mt. Lebo).

Kous Kous Cafe is a Moroccan restaurant that has been open for roughly 7 or 8 months. We think it is in what used to be the old Enrico Biscotti storefront. There are roughly 12 tables in the restaurant, which is about 4 too many. At one point in the meal, I stood up to let two people next to us leave. The servers are deft at manuveuring through the narrow aisle to deliver people and food to their destinations. With all of you jammed in to a small place, it gets loud.

But it's worth it.

Some of you may be wondering "So what is Moroccan cuisine?". Restaurants like Aladdin's (up the street from Kous Kous) have opened the door for usually non-adventurous eaters to try a nice, safe entry into Middle Eastern cuisine. Kous Kous has elements of the foods you would find at Aladdin's, but is a very authentic homemade style of its own.

Moroccan cuisine involves some of the more esoteric spices that many of us do not use on a daily basis, such as saffron, cumin, and turmeric. These give the rices and other dishes a more aromatic and fuller flavor that what you may be used to.

We overheard during our dinner there (not hard to do!) that the chef and his mother prepare the bases to the dishes fresh each day. After you order, everything is assembled and cooked for your meal.

One of the staples of Moroccan cuisine is the tagine. A tagine is a clay, conical pot that is not only the cooking vessel, but also the serving dish. Its' shape allows the food to cook as a stew-type of meal, while pushing the condensation off to the sides.

DB~ chose the salmon tagine. (Side note - I'm starting to think that I'm dating a kodiak bear. Her salmon consumption is off-the-charts. As long as there is either salmon or a portabello mushroom dish on the menu, I know she'll be happy wherever we go. Last year, she visited a salmon spawning ladder ground. I was concerned she was going to reach in and grab/eat one raw. She didn't.)

Anyway...it was fantastic. When you remove the top of the tagine, you were greeted with a flavorful waft of spices from the grilled vegetables and rice. The pieces of salmon were delicate and interwoven with the wide variety of vegetables (red pepper, green pepper, onion strands, carrot chunks, potatoes, squash, and zucchini).

I went with the namesake of the restaurant...a vegetable cous cous. I don't know why I didn't go with the lamb cous cous. I'm not turning into a damn, dirty hippie, I hope. The vegetable cous cous was served in a shallow dish with a simple yet flavor-packed tomato-based sauce. A mound of delicious cous cous sat on top and placed around the perimeter were the same series of grilled vegetables as described above.

As an appetizer, we went with the Moroccan platter of hummus, roasted eggplant, and grilled peppers. This was served with pita chips for dipping.

All in all, it was a fantastic meal. Minor complaint -- it seemed as if everything was $1-2 dollars more than it should have been. For instance, my vegetable kous kous was $16...that seems a little high for a non-meat dish. The platter was $9...again same concept. However, as I said, it was worth it. It's not as if there are a lot of other Moroccan restaurants to try in the city of Pittsburgh, so give it a shot.

Just wear your deodorant and hope that your other adjoining patrons did the same.

3 comments:

  1. Plus, they had water with no ice cubes and soft spreadable butter. :) ~

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  2. Dale Berra's StashMarch 24, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    That butter was one step away from being a yellow pool!

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  3. That's just how I like it...and you don't have to nuke it when you want to spread it on bread! ~

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