Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to the West Village for handmade couscous.
Einat Admony's Taim restaurants serve what is probably the single best falafel platter in all of NYC (the harissa balls, especially, are the object of one of my most frequent cravings), so when word came that she was launching an entirely new operation, with a focus on couscous, excitement in these quarters ran high.
Kish-Kash is a pretty, inviting place on a busy, attractive West Village block, and during opening week the locals seemed thrilled by their new neighbor. Bright and boldly-patterned tile work cover most of space, and the open kitchen in the back contributes to the room's lively feel. A communal table seats twelve, and two-tops run along the opposite wall before a cushioned bench, creating a coveted corner nook by the window. Stools overlooking the kitchen and more stools overlooking Hudson Street complete your seating options.
There were some front-of-the-house issues last week. Dishes labeled "to start" on the menu were delivered simultaneously with the entree. Saucers of house-made harissa came with some patrons' couscous, but not others. And their system couldn't read my chip card after both of my dinners, spaced three nights apart (in other words, the problem wasn't fixed). But Admony and her partner Stefan Nafziger are pros, and I imagine these and a couple of other glitches will be smoothed out soon enough.
(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Admony calls her couscous at Kish-Kash Moroccan style, and the grains, made from scratch, are extremely fine, fluffy, and flavorful. It's apparently all very labor-intensive, requiring hand-rolling and close attention to consistency and temperature throughout the entire three hour process. But the results, at least in the three couscous dishes I tried last week, are worth it.
The Lamb Couscous pairs the airy grains with tender, gamy meat, a couple of potatoes and carrots, dried fruit, and a bit of juice to swirl around your bowl. The Chraime, or spicy fish, was also good — the fillet oily, the skin slightly crisp, a chunky tomato sauce and seriously fiery roasted pepper heightening the pleasure. And, going three-for-three, Admony's Chicken Tagine was another winner, the meat again perfectly cooked, the lemon and olive sauce rich, tangy, and briny.
You can supplement your coucous with three "additions" — a single order of all three is plenty for two people — and I highly recommend you do exactly that. The Chirchi (mashed squash) has a nice kick to it, thanks to plentiful harissa and garlic; the Matboucha, a thick tomato and pepper dip, provides a sweeter counterpoint; and the Masayer, or pickled vegetables, offers a welcome hit of acid to your meal. The Hummus, in the "To Start" section of the menu, is fine, and served with two slices of firm-crusted challah bread.
Good food made with love served in a pleasant room by nice people: Kish-Kash seems poised to be a big neighborhood hit, and definitely worth seeking out for Admony completists.
Kish-Kash is located at 455 Hudson Street between Barrow and Morton Streets, and is open daily from noon to 10 p.m. (kishkashnyc.com)