I’ve eaten at Cous Cous twice recently, and both times had an incredible experience.
The first was after working all weekend, my colleagues and I went there to celebrate the conclusion of a successful project on a busy Saturday night. We got there early before the crowds, and as we left, there was a long line.
We made good use of the tapas concept and ordered a bunch of dishes:
- Flaming sheep’s milk cheese served over apples with pita wedges
- Cous Cous with moroccan vegetables
- Paella with mock chicken
- Smoked salmon on potato pancakes
- Sweet corn fritters with chipotle creme fraiche
- Lentil soup
- Crispy eggplant with apricot marmalade
The flaming cheese, which was brought to our table still on fire (and most of the other tables too- it’s a popular dish), was easily the best dish I’ve had in Richmond. I’ve had flaming cheese at a Greek restaurant in Detroit before, it was incredible. But the addition of tart green apples took this over the top- the nuttiness of the cheese with the tart apples and toasted pita was a perfect combination.
The Cous Cous, which should be a signature dish as its the restaurant’s namesake, was too dry. It was well-spiced with a good mix of vegetables, but that couldn’t compensate for the dryness. But that was the only disappointment out of all the main dishes.
The Paella was unlike Spanish paella, a very different flavor palate was used- a spice I couldn’t quite identify. It was outstanding, and satisfyingly different than any dishes available in other Richmond restaurants. And the mock chicken is some of the best in town.
The smoked salmon was excellent- high quality fish, well smoked, with a creamy horseradish-dill-caper sauce. The sauce could have used more heat from the horseradish. The potato pancakes were well executed- not too starchy and they cohered well. Their flavor was overwhelmed a bit by the salmon and the sauce.
The sweet corn fritters were amazing. Perfectly fried tiny bites of sweetness which paired nicely with the smokey-rich chipotle creme fresh dip.
The lentil soup was filling, thick, but not heavily flavored. It was a solid dish, but I wouldn’t order it again as I prefer lentil dishes that are more strongly spiced.
Finally the crispy eggplant was surprising- very lightly fried, well cooked (not too tough or too soft), and well-seasoned. The apricot marmalade was very sweet, but if used sparingly was a nice foil for the meatiness of the eggplant.
We then ordered desert- a flourless chocolate cake and baklava, with espresso and coffee. By that time, the restaurant was packed, and service had ground to a halt. Desert took an agonizingly long time to come- we’d all finished our coffee before it came. I’ve since decided desert and coffee aren’t worth the time & money there. No one was impressed with their coffee, the baklava was too dry, and the chocolate cake was rich and dense, but not particularly noteworthy.
Nevertheless I had such a great meal that I went back a week later with my wife. We ordered the two standouts from my previous meal- the paella and the flaming cheese. We added wilted spinach with currants, pine nuts, and apples, and seared scallops in a coconut curry sauce. Both were excellent additions. The paella disappointed slightly with too many artichokes- a problem absent the first time. But the spicing was still right on. The scallops were phenomenal, perfectly cooked with a slightly sweet curry sauce that I wanted to mop up every bit of.
Cous cous has become my one of my favorite restaurants in town. An extensive array of dishes, which I haven’t even come close to exploring, and very little disappointment out of the 9 dishes I’ve tried so far.
And by all means, try the flaming cheese. It’s incredible.