After eating Jon Robbins' inspired French-North African fare at Bistro Barbès, I was hungry for more. Not just more of his upscale fusion, but more dishes such as the tagines and harira I came to love in Morocco, Algeria and France, a second home to many North African immigrants. Yesterday I couldn't stand it any longer, so I dropped everything and went in search of one of my favorites: couscous with vegetables.
At the time, I was around the corner from Mecca Grill, a Middle Eastern restaurant that I reviewed earlier this year. The owner had told me that she was planning on introducing Moroccan specialties, but when I called she wasn't in and the person on the line said the restaurant doesn't serve Moroccan food.
Then I tried nearby Tajine and Grill, and was told that there's a new owner but no Moroccan food. At Marrakech Grill, I heard a similar story. "We don't have couscous," said the employee, who explained that despite the Moroccan name, it's a Lebanese restaurant.
I couldn't go to Palais Casablanca because that's been boarded up for months, and Mataam Fez isn't open for lunch. So I did what any couscous-lover would do: I made the long trek to Cafe Paprika. Couscous isn't on the "express lunch" menu, but the owner said he could make it, as long as I wasn't in a rush.
By that point I was; I had a meeting across town in 45 minutes. But I really wanted the couscous. So I said okay, and hurried to the far corner of Aurora, where I was met with a Styrofoam container filled with what I'd been hoping for: a mound of couscous, golden grains plump and fluffy from being steamed, not boiled, covered with herbs, raisins and large hunks of soft carrots, zucchini and potatoes. Normally I'm not a fan of overcooked vegetables, but every time I've had the dish, that's the way it's been served, like vegetable soup without the broth.
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The portion was more than generous, so I have half tucked away in the fridge, the perfect comfort food on a cool day.