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DINING REVIEW: Kous Kous

Kous kous in Hillcrest
Filet mignon brochettes at Kous Kous.
Photo by Steven Persitza

There are so many great places to eat in Hillcrest that we found ourselves gravitating towards the usual suspects, only to find many closed for lunch on a Saturday – go figure. Wandering about, which in itself is a pleasant repast in the 'hood; we spied a discreet placard on Fourth Avenue promoting Kous Kous. One fabulous thing about Kous Kous is that it’s downstairs off the main street and you would never have known it was there. So reminiscent of all of those killer places you find below street level in most American cities on the east coast. Piquing our interest, we descended and were embraced by an almost secret, opium den kind of atmosphere. Very cool.

Settings of chairs and couches hugging carved wooden tables adorned with linens of muted colors fill the space. Sheer veils separate areas creating intimate seating for diners. Lanterns continued to set the ambiance with their slow glow of lighting transforming a basement into a cloak-and-dagger hideaway. Who knew that such a place existed just steps away from a dry cleaning joint?

Moroccan cuisine, we soon discovered, has a mostly sweet complexity. Whether ordering soups or savory meats, the essence of sugary stirrings are central in each dish. Being there for lunch offered a finite, yet, interesting selection of delights.

Appetizers included Harisa Soup (lemony tomato broth with lentils and garbanzo beans-$4) and, the highly recommended by the server, B’stila Roll (saffron chicken, orange blossom water and honey cinnamon almonds-$6). Both were an interesting combination of textures and flavors and, as foretold, sweetness prevailed. The soup had an intriguing blend of seasonings and brought a sense of subtle comfort flavors with intricate nuances. Yeah, all that in a bowl of soup. The B’stila roll was another intriguing dish. Think of it as a cookie with meat. As odd as it sounds, it worked. Once again, the sweet flavor commands the dish while the savory chicken added a unique combination of tastes. You just need to give it a shot.

The main dishes brought a more balanced compliment of flavors. While the underlining sweet factor still persisted, it was toned down by the wide array of spices and texture. Try the Merquez (char broiled spiced beef and lamb sausage with sharmoula aioli-$8) a brilliant plate of meaty goodness. Add the accompaniments of fresh baked Moroccan bread with a mixed green salad with kalamata olives and you can stir your way to culinary nirvana. While the sausage was a tad gamey, mixing it with the other components of the dish brought all of the attributes together for a very satisfying culmination.

Lunch specials included the Seafood Tangine (sea bass and shrimp with braised carrots in a tomato sharmoula sauce-$10) and Filet Mignon Brochettes (grilled skewers with ginger, garlic and a fresh herb marinade-$9). Both dishes arrived with wheat cous cous garnished with honey caramelized raisins and garbanzo beans. Both of the dishes scored on all levels. The tangines’ sea bass was so well prepared that it literally melted in your mouth, while the fillet produced a tender piece of meat that worked extremely well with the other components of the dish.

Kous Kous was truly a fun, interesting find that more folks should know about. Interesting, diverse and so incredibly original for San Diego. It was very easy to be captivated by the look, feel and taste of the venue. Take a road less traveled and find the pleasures that exist on the other side. Kous Kous will take care of satiating your desire for unique, interesting fare.

The Good:Always love trying something new and unexpected.

The Bad:It’s a culture thing but sweet, sweet, sweet, well, a little overpowering.

Details »
  • City: san diego
  • Phone: 619-295-5560
  • Name: Kous Kous
  • Address: 3940 4th Ave #110