CousCous Cafe brings the taste of Morocco to Oklahoma City
CousCous Cafe is located at 6165 North May in Oklahoma City (map). It is on the north end of a small strip mall on the west side of the street between Golden Corral and Denny’s. There is no sign yet, so you have to look close. You don’t want to miss it.
I am deeply indebted to my friends over at the OKCTalk.com Food Court forums (see the CousCous Cafe thread). That’s where I first heard about the CousCous Cafe, a new Moroccan restaurant on North May. I finally got over to try it and I have to say, I haven’t been this excited about finding a new place in a while. I highly recommend you check it out, and I’d love to hear your impressions in the comments.
The CousCous Cafe is a pretty new place and just getting up and going. I like the fact that they are bringing a specific and unique cuisine to the Oklahoma City metro and that they exhibit an obvious passion for what they do. Owner / Manager Rachid Ayare greets you, takes care of you, serves you as your waiter, and helps with the food preparation. Rachid told us he hails from Casablanca and therefore the food served here can be described as Mediterranean, but more specifically, Moroccan. Rachid is very hospitable and very willing and able to explain the intricacies of the menu to you.
The restaurant is located in a strip mall just between Golden Corral and Denny’s on the west side of May. I’m giving you all of this detail because if you don’t know where it is, it can be pretty tough to find. They don’t have a sign up yet, just a small paper poster on the door. So, look hard on the north end of the strip mall, just to the south of Denny’s, and you’ll find it.
I think they’ve done a nice job with the interior of the restaurant. I saw this space when it was “The Pizza Box” for a very brief period, and CousCous has definitely made some improvements. There are about half a dozen tables in a dining area wrapped on two sides by curved, floor to ceiling windows. It’s pretty nice for a strip mall. Little touches like small colorful pottery pieces on each table give you the sense that they care about their environment, which I appreciate. It’s simple, but pleasant.
We started out with the authentic Moroccan tea, which is served hot in a teapot and poured into small glasses. The tea is brewed with the leaves and spices loose in the liquid. It is rich and sweet and very, very good. We moved on to an appetizer of hummus served with a crisp flat bread. The hummus was artfully presented and was delightfully creamy and flavorful.
I was fortunate to visit the restaurant with my wife, my two kids, my parents and my sister, so we had enough people to really try a variety of items from the menu. My wife selected one of the vegetarian combos ($6), which comes with a combination of three types of salads or specialties. She chose the couscous salad, zaalook (an eggplant salad), and falafel. I have to say that the couscous salad was one of the most delightful things I’ve tasted. It’s fresh, zippy, and the texture is wonderful with couscous, a mixture of vegetables and garbanzo beans in a very light olive oil dressing. That one was the winning salad in my opinion.
My parents each had one of the kabob platters ($7.50 – $11, depending on which meats, and how many), which comes with your choice of grilled meat, rice, Moroccan salad and grape leaf wraps. We got to sample the chicken and the kefta (beef) kabobs, both of which were very flavorful. My six year old son even enjoyed the meat quite a bit, and he is a very picky eater.
I branched out and tried one of the burritos ($5 – $6 depending on the meat). That’s right, a burrito. Actually, though, this was quite an interesting fusion dish with grilled chicken, a spread of hummus, Moroccan salad, brown rice and tahini sauce wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. I got it because I wanted to get something different than everyone else, and I have to say, it was really, really good and a clever take as well.
My sister found the real gem of this place. She got the special of the day, which was a lamb shank with prunes, slow cooked in a tagine with an amazing blend of spices. The whole thing was presented beautifully with a single almond placed atop each prune surrounding the centerpiece of meat. I had one of the prunes and a bite of the meat and I have to say, it was amazing. Tender, sweet, spicy, exotic and everything you would really hope for from a place like this. It is this type of cooking that is going to set the CousCous Cafe apart in Oklahoma City. Next time I go, I am getting whatever delightful recipe Rachid is cooking up in the tagine that day.
Lest I come off sounding too enthralled, I’ll admit the place has some rough edges. For example, you shouldn’t go if you’re in a hurry because patience is required as you wait for your food to be prepared. When we arrived, we were the only customers, and things were still moving in a bit of slow motion (we were there early and by the time we left, I was glad to see that several other customers had arrived). Of course, I attribute this to the newness of the place and the fact that they are having to do as much with as little as possible right now. I am very hopeful that our city will be able to support them so they can grow and mature. I believe they have a lot to offer us and I would love to see them come into their own.
Bottom line, you need to give this place a try. This is what eating local is all about and I’m thrilled that Oklahoma City is getting this type of diverse culinary exposure. CousCous Cafe delivers a unique, flavorful and exciting cuisine, simple yet artful presentations, and a very enjoyable experience all around. Check it out and let me know what you think.