Here’s looking at you, couscous.

If it’s a nasty night and you don’t want to stray too far from the nearest subway stop, you’re in the same boat that my girlfriend and I were in on Saturday.  Absolutely gross weather, but we were in the mood for good food with a side of adventure.  What to do?  We ended up at La Maison du Couscous, on Bay Ridge’s 77th St. – it’s close enough to the R train to brave Mother Nature, and, though it’s a little expensive, the food is worth traveling to try in any weather.

Our meal at La Maison du Couscous was the second dinner in a row for us at a restaurant that claimed to be Moroccan.  The first, I will briefly say, was located on Avenue A (Manhattan), had a name that would seem to attract more dieters than foodies, and was rather horrible.  I mean, REALLY bad in a “rancid olive and hummus” kind of way.  Thankfully, LMdC (love the acronym – wonder if this will bring in the WTC redevelopment readers) redeemed the genre – beating the Avenue A place in every category, including atmosphere and ambiance.

The excellence starts early – the moment we sat down, we were informed of the restaurant’s BYOB policy (a liquor license is said to be in process), and I scampered back out into the rain to grab us beer (the deli across 5th Ave. had the most enormous can of Asahi I’ve ever seen).  When I returned, I found my girlfriend noshing on one of the more delicious pieces of warm bread I’ve had in a few weeks, coated in butter and a few sesame seeds – the perfect sponge for the sauce that comes with it.  Made with sundried tomatoes, hot peppers, and olive oil, this stuff was absolutely fantastic.  We demolished two loaves of the bread just finishing the sauce and the excellent hummus ($4-ish) – unusual for me, because I’m usually saving room for the main dish.  Also notable and served free to us was a dish full of green olives and chopped veggies – the olives (and I’m not usually a big fan) were quite good.

Of course, after the hors d’orgy, we over-ordered mains, but I don’t feel like I could have escaped without trying both a tajine and a couscous (both in the $12 range).  The tajine we ordered was the house version, with peas, carrots, artichoke hearts, and potatoes in a brown sauce that reminded me a bit of my mother’s beef stew.  The merguez that (our requested meat) looked more like Jimmy Dean than Bedouin Tent, but the taste was agreeable, if not quite up to the Tent’s high (and spicy) standards, and the sausage was thankfully free of grease.

The couscous (interestingly also served in a tajine – I have no idea if this is typical) was sweet in an earthy kind of way, with golden raisins, prunes, and dates.  This was probably a poor pairing with a strongly-flavored lamb shank that had good tenderness but was a little dry (sounds odd, but I can’t think of how else to describe it).  The pasta itself was cooked to what seemed to me to be the right level of stickiness, and I’d order it again with a more neutral meat (or just by itself).

Like I mentioned above, the atmosphere at LMdC is several notches above average.  With a friendly waiter and a dimly-but-warmly lit dining room, you could do a lot worse for a date location, particularly if you’re usually dragging her all over creation to places that could best be described as grittily functional (thanks, hon!).  That’s not to say that LMdC is perfect – the sweets ($2), described as chef Fatima’s special, were disappointingly over-honeyed pastry-marzipan rolls, and they seemed a bit on the stale side.  Thankfully, you’ll probably be too full for them anyway.

1 Comment

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One response to “Here’s looking at you, couscous.

  1. Caroline

    I loved this place. Also important to note, the seating is somewhat limited…like the picture in the link is only missing one table. On the night we went in there was reserved space for a party of 6 that basically took up the entire place. My point is, if you’re making a schlep from afar, it might be worth it to pick up the phone and make a res.

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