I love Mediterranean food and, having spent time in this region , I can be a little picky about where I go to get it. The gyro shops in the mall just don’t cut it for me anymore.
I had tried many of the places around Oklahoma City, but until recently there was one that I had neglected.
Now I feel bad because it was one of the best I have tried, here in Oklahoma or anywhere else. Cous Cous Cafe on north May, just south of 63rd, was truly delicious.
Less ostentatious than the other two Mediterranean locales on that same block, Zorbas and the aptly named Mediterranean Restaurant, it may be easy to miss. Don’t.
Several different people had recommended Cous Cous to me and it had just slipped my radar, but the other day two friends managed to get me in the door at lunch time, and it won’t slip my mind again.
Cous Cous is a Moroccan Restaurant at its heart. The owners, Moroccans themselves, make everything fresh daily using their own recipes and, changing up the traditional Mediterranean flavors, use herbs and spices traditionally found in Morocco.
But before we talk about their food, I want to talk about Moroccan food in general. Mainly, I figure a lot of you will be asking yourselves, what is it? That is a tough question.
Due to the countries geographic location as the southern half of the Strait of Gibraltar, it has been of strategic value to every western empire since Europe was inhabited by people. The only sea route into the Mediteranean, until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Morocco has both thrived and suffered under the gaze of almost every major European, North African, and Middle Eastern power.
From this constant influx, throughout history, of outside powers and people, the food of Morocco has become one of the most diverse cuisines in the world. Trade with Spain and Portugal to the north, influenced by the ancient Romans and Greeks, conquered by the Berbers and the Moors (African Muslims), and populated by Jews expelled from Europe, the food of Morocco can surprise you with tastes from virtually anywhere.
Now that you’ve been hit with a bit of history, let’s get to the food at hand.
Cous Cous Cafe offers all of the traditional mediterranean dishes that you find at most of these places, and by all means you should try them, because they were very good.
On my first visit I tried the lamb kebab, seasoned well and grilled to perfection, and the kefta, a traditional Moroccan dish made with ground lamb and beef, and mixed with cumin, paprika, minced onion, coriander and parsley. This was the first time I had had a chance to try kefta and it is definitely worth a try. Think of it like a grilled sausage, but without the casing.
They offer home-made humus, grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, and some of the prettiest falafel I have seen, if you are looking for something a little more Greek.
All three of those dishes are vegetarian; as are the zalook, grilled eggplant mashed with tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro; and the cous cous salad, with tomatoes, garbanzo beans, onions, and mint. I recommend trying both of those while you are here.
Sticking to Moroccan tradition, they also serve many tagine dishes. Meats and vegetable stewed together and served in a conical tagine pot.
They also make pita sandwiches, a la gyros, with just about any of their meats, including grilled chicken, lamb, kefta, chicken shawarma (think gyro meat, but made with chicken), and beef.
An interesting option that I haven’t seen anywhere else if definitely the choice to have your food as a burrito. They take a tortilla and spread it with humus, fill it with brown rice, and add your choice of veggies, falafel, or any of their meats. Can’t go wrong with that.
While you are here, be sure to order the Moroccan tea. Almost an official drink in Morocco, you will find it everywhere in the country. A mix of green tea leaves and mint leaves, mixed with honey and steeped in a carafe, then served as a tea service right at your table. My problem with this drink is limiting myself, because I would drink it all day long.
Finally, be sure to try dessert. They make everything themselves, so the available desserts depend on what they feel like making that day. I was blown away by the quality of the desserts, they were great.
I also loved the candor of the owner when he offered me a piece of cake. We asked what it was and he explained that he had no idea, but that his wife had made it that morning and that it was delicious. He was right.
So, come in and say hello to the folks at Cous Cous Cafe and do your best not to order one of everything on the menu.