Published on November 1st, 2012 | by Daniella Renee
Moroccan Mealtime @ Kous Kous
Kous Kous Moroccan Restaurant Review
Walking down 4th Avenue in Hillcrest, it’s easy to miss the flight of stairs which deliver you to Kous Kous’ low-lit subterranean location. You’re greeted by outdoor benches covered in pillows and through the restaurant’s glass walls, an indoor lounge area outfitted with colorful, plush couches is visible. The cheery host whisks you to your table and if you’re lucky, it’s along the wall which evokes the sensation of being in a tent. Linens drape overhead and decorative beads dangle. Our table was located alongside a curtained service area and thus my friend and I were treated to a “show” each time our server laughingly popped through to check in on us.
I was thoroughly impressed and appreciative when our server started out the evening by asking if there were any food allergies present in our party. Resigned to my recent realization that gluten and I are mildly hostile to one another, I’ve begun cutting out the obvious offenders. Considering the surge in food allergies over the past few years, it truly is good customer service for a restaurant to ask patrons about possible allergies.
Not wanting my allergies to limit the options of my friends, I encouraged my dining companion to order the b’stila roll, a Kous Kous favorite composed of herb saffron chicken, orange blossom water and honey cinnamon almonds covered in flakey phylo and baked. Hailing from Egypt and well-versed in Middle Eastern cuisine, they were in ecstasy over the perfectly balanced flavors, sweet yet salty, and the symphony of textures.
Being ravenous and new to the concept of photographing my dishes prior to eating, I absentmindedly spooned helpings from each dish onto my plate before realizing my hypoglycemia-induced error. Thankfully, my inner artist had arranged each item creatively, thus saving the photographic day, albeit narrowly. Be advised that the tagines are served in a casserole dish of sorts, not on a plate.
- Complimentary Carrots with optional hot sauce on the side: Famished yum. A nice touch and pleasant departure from the ubiquitous bread basket found at so many establishments. While ordering, our server advised us that our entrees would take 28 minutes to prepare. Being on a tight budget, an appetizer was not an option for me and thus, the carrots were even more greatly appreciated. The flavors were subtle and despite my aversion to heat, I tested out the hot sauce. Lightly distributed, it gave a pleasant kick that toed the border of my spice tolerance. I should note that it took an unfortunate heavy distribution of the sauce to determine that light was in fact that best course of action for my timid taste buds.
- Chicken Tagine: Good. My friend and I shared our tagines. They normally come with Moroccan bread and Sharmoula Aioli so a hefty serving of saffron rice was substituted for my order. I was struck by the complex depth of flavors enveloping the chicken. However, I found the moisture and tenderness levels to be lacking in all but the smallest pieces of chicken. On its own, the rice was placid. Soft, subtle but not entirely memorable. It wasn’t until it was paired with the tagine contents that its role as a foil for the other’s flavors became clear.
- Berber Lamb Shank Tagine: Very good. Torn between this iteration of the lamb and the Fassi tagine, our server recommended the Berber. He explained the Fassi was delicious but a bit heavy on the sweet taste and thus a tad tiring for the palate. The Berber turned out to be a wise selection. Like the chicken, the flavors were multi-layered to such an extent that I found myself eating quite slowly to savor the miniature explosions of deliciousness across my taste buds. The rice helped temper the intensity, allowing me to experience the spices more fully. The lamb was tender yet not as tender as I would expect after 48 hours of braising. Flavor without the requisite tenderness as this price point is a big point of contention for my palate.
Service is stellar. The atmosphere is fantastic, making Kous Kous perfect for a date night or night on the town – it’s low-lit and exotic without entertaining hoity-toity or kitschy notions. While it’s possible to dine for under $30, the price points are such that I believe this dining experience teeters between that marker and a higher price range. Open Table reservations are available.
3940 4th Avenue, Suite 110,
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 295 – 5560