Yet his knowledge seems complete if perfunctory; the menu is a decent effort in the median East. Traditional Moroccan dishes, such as brochette of chicken with a raisin and almond rice, and tajine, a slow-cooked stew, are offered. As with couscous, touajen are limited only by the imagination of the cook. Olives, artichokes, and dried fruits are among the ingredients in a standard tajine, along with meat or poultry. At Couscous every tajine comes up a sweet lamb, regardless of the order. Complemented by the generous, sunny nature of prunes, chunks of lamb meant to be eaten with the fingers are bunched over two scoops of raisins and rice.
And unlike Yo Si Peking, whose eggrolls lack the true flavors afforded them by pork and shellfish, and whose entrees as an entirety rely solely on garlic for zip, Cafe Couscous holds an appeal for the general public. Mediocre Chinese food, Kosher or not, is an accessibility in this city. Moroccan and Mediterranean foods are luxuries, even when consumed in the ephemeral charm of a misguided renovation that reminds you of a motley crew of cultures.
Does a question of authenticity remain? Chicken bstila is sold as an appetizer of minced poultry and onions baked in a crust. A true bstila however, calls for pigeon and is an enormously complicated recipe. In Morocco, this dish resembles a large pastry, the epidermal layers (similar to phyllo dough) numbering 104 having been thrown down one at a time onto a sizzling griddle. Can a man whose fingers have dipped into many different pies make this one to order?
The answer is no, nor should we expect it of him. In Morocco, a chief cook and her assistants take twelve hours to prepare bstila. In a Glatt Kosher kitchen, improvisations -- and substitutions -- naturally occur. Perhaps this is why my garden vegetable couscous looked and tasted not like the evocative mixture of grains and spices I had anticipated, but like my mother's comforting chicken soup, topped as it was by the root vegetables she uses to flavor it. Moistened by a chicken and chick pea broth, it's a dish I can call home, and it's cheaper than a flight to New Jersey. Or for that matter, a ferry to Morocco.
Cafe Couscous 1111 Kane Concourse, Bay Harbor Islands, 864-0141. Dinner Sunday -- Thursday from 4:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. Saturday from sundown to 11:00 p.m. Closed Friday.