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Best Couscous in Paris?

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What's the best couscous in Paris in your opinion? I've eaten at Chez Omar, so I'd rather see some other suggestions—especially non-touristy, non-trendy places that just serve good food. I don't care about decor. I've already searched the forum here and found a big list that came from a guide. But I would rather know based on your personal experience—especially those who really know Paris. I have lived in Paris multiple times and am currently here for a few months, so I'm not a stranger to the food scene, but I'm looking to branch out from my routines and thought I would start by asking about couscous.

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  1. Well, this question comes up regularly. Did you search already?
    A good start is this thread where places like La Table de Fes, L'Atlas, etc. are recommended:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/657797

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dodo

      Thanks for the link, but I already did search and had considered those answers to be the usual suspects. The only one I didn't know was Les 4 Frères, which I tried yesterday (a couscous royal—great beef and chicken, so-so merguez) and liked quite a bit. Also, the prices were ridiculously low, which is always nice.

    2. If you're here for a few months you might want to try the Royal Maroc (http://royal.maroc.site.voila.fr/), a quiet off-the-beaten-path neighborhood kind of place.
      It is my favorite where I always order a Couscous Mechoui. The lamb shoulder has been slowly cooked for hours, is crusty outside and melts in the mouth. The stock is rich and also very good (very different from the Table de Fes, for which I don't quite understand the reputation).
      it is very cheap (something like 20 euros for a couscous). Two Moroccan brothers are running the restaurant. They almost retired earlier this year but eventually decided to carry on a little while. Sometimes the service is a bit slow but the overall experience for me is always very good.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Theobroma

        Thanks, Theobroma. That sound like exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. It also looks vaguely familiar, like I may have had a tagine there several years ago. Either way, I will definitely go.

        1. re: Theobroma

          royal maroc appears to be closed. there's now another (non-couscous) restaurant at its
          former location on port royal.

        2. Just thought I'd do a follow-up on my quest for the best couscous in Paris. Le Tourne-Bouchon (71, Boulevard Raspail--not far from the Epicerie du Bon Marché, so convenient for food lovers) has absolutely wonderful couscous between 10 and 14,50 euros (the higher price is for the royal). It's more centrally located than Les 4 Frères and better overall. This is the kind of place chowhounds should choose, in my opinion. It's authentic, it's friendly, it's high quality, and it's not overpriced or pretentious. Search over. The only drawback to Le Tourne-Bouchon is that they offer couscous only on Thurs, Fri, and Sunday.

          1. This topic is like an ever-opening flower. We'll never really know as there are awesome places opening all over and off the beaten path. Go forth, ask some locals, discover...

            1. Ever opening flowers aside, I had to weigh in to add a bit to this thread.

              Not as familiar with Paris as most of you sound to be but, here for a week in search of some truly great Moroccan, came across your exchange. It really helped so thanks to all of you for sharing opinions that were instantly believable.

              To give back just a bit, I'll validate one of the cous cous reccs and fill in a bit more information on the other. We decided last minute to seek out Moroccan for tonight and, based totally on this thread, took a few different trains to get to Le Tourne Bouchon. Arrived at around 8:45 pm and: CLOSED! Man, was that seriously dispiriting. They shut down at 8pm. We'd wrongly assumed later than that given what the norm on closing hours seems to be around the city.

              But, not to be outdone, got back on metro, a couple more trains and over to Royal Maroc on Port Royal. We narrowly missed being shut out there but the front-of-house brother let us in to join what was only one other table. We had our hearts set on tajines but, no go. Not at that hour. So, we ordered the cous cous and it was as advertised. Some mergues to start, then the cous cous with roasted lamb of the falling-off-bone variety and that perfectly fluffy and flavorful cous cous.

              The mint tea was especially good along with a baklava-like triangle pastry called 'Patisserie Morrocaine' on the menu.

              Thanks hounds.

              2 Replies
              1. re: nwdchound

                I am glad you liked it.
                Note that they make their mergues themselves (but not the patisseries).
                Cheers.

                1. re: nwdchound

                  Le Tourne Bouchon only serves food (including couscous) for lunch.

                2. I really like the couscous at Les 4 Freres... their lentils & lubia are also fantastic and the prices really can't be beat. There's no reason to pay upwards of 20 euros for couscous-- it's a rustic, cheap ingredient kinda dish.

                  There's a place on Fbg du Temple that serves only couscous & brochettes. It's always packed, til midnight, every night of the week. I have yet to try it but I thought I'd recommend it, though unfortunately it has no name (that I know of), just a huge sign advertising "GRILLADES au feu de bois." Corner of fbg du temple & passage Piver.

                  1. I would say as long as you get away from Chez Omar, you're likely to be fine. Couscous at Chez Omar is not among the best.
                    If you don't care about decor and are looking for a non-touristy, non-trendy place, you might enjoy Chez Hamadi-Le Boute-Grill on rue Boutebrie, just off boulevard Saint-Germain near the Saint-Jacques corner. It is actually my very favorite couscous restaurant in Paris. But it is really a hole in the wall, looks just like that and has been carefully maintaining that look for decades. It serves superior couscous.

                    1. My favorite is at Le Petit Bleu at 23, rue Muller in the 18e, on the way up to the Sacre Coeur. Its a no frills spot, but it's cheap, has friendly service and the couscous is the best in Paris! You can combine with a stroll in Montmartre for the perfect evening!

                      http://www.tripadvisor.fr/Restaurant_...

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: The Mistress of Spices

                        "Le Petit Bleu" is very good indeed but with the abundance of couscous of various types in Paris, it would be difficult to deem it "the best in Paris".
                        Styles make a difference also: in the same city you may find Algerian Berber-style couscous (with clear broth, sometimes on a beef base, and merguez on the side), dry Saharan couscous with meshwy roasted lamb, Moroccan-style couscous with onion jam on the side, Tunisian-style meat couscous (moistened with red broth, meatballs or osbane (offal sausage) on the side; Jewish Tunisian style as you get around the Folies-Bergère (various tfinas - slow-cooked stews - on the side), Tunisian fish couscous, etc., etc. - So first you have to figure out which couscous you want, which makes the initial question (best in Paris) even more hopeless.

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          "...with the abundance of xxxx of various types in Paris, it would be difficult to deem it "the best in Paris"....So first you have to figure out which xxxx you want, which makes the initial question (best in Paris) even more hopeless."

                          Please replace pinned "Announcement: New Board Breakdown" with Pti's words.

                          1. re: mangeur

                            "Please replace pinned "Announcement: New Board Breakdown" with Pti's words."

                            Then Pti's words will be up around the time the Poles melt.

                            1. re: Parigi

                              I hope they do, too.

                              1. re: Parigi

                                oh, do the Poles have a soft spot in their hearts for couscous?

                        2. no idea if it's the best, but i really enjoyed my meal at Le Souk (11th) last summer

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: Simon

                            From this week's Figaroscope:
                            http://www.lefigaro.fr/sortir-paris/2...

                            However, don't see La Table de Fès.... :o((

                            1. re: Dodo

                              I have never been to that Zerda Café (the photo does not reveal anything different from the usual couscous du coin) but clearly le Figaroscope has missed some of the most interesting couscous in Paris.
                              L'Atlas is mentioned, that's already something.
                              La Table de Fès and Le Timgad (the latter outrageously expensive and uptight but not bad at all) are absent.
                              Chez Hamadi is not there (not chic enough perhaps). Neither is Au Petit Cahoua.
                              Le 404, despite a lovely setting, is hardly above average in terms of couscous.
                              Chez Bébert probably wasn't bobo enough (but then why include La Maison de Charly?)
                              La Boule Rouge is copious, not very refined, but a decent couscous nevertheless.
                              Chez Omar and L'Homme Bleu shouldn't be included at all (if the subject really is "les meilleurs couscous de Paris"). Chez Omar is a landmark and has a pretty interesting wine list but AFAIK the couscous broth tastes like old soup with depressing, nearly disintegrated vegetables.

                              1. re: Ptipois

                                So if someone (a student friend, in this case) asked where to get a very good couscous for a modest price, ambiance irrelevant, which ones would you recommend? She lives in the 11th, by the way, and won't care about "best."

                                And I agree about Chez Omar. I stopped going years ago when it ceased to be good, only expensive.

                                1. re: RandyB

                                  "Modest price, ambiance irrelevant", I'd say Chez Hamadi, which is at Saint-Michel, rue Boutebrie.

                                  Chez Hamadi : Tunisian-style ("red" fine-grained couscous), plebeian (which I consider a quality), excellent lamb chops and merguez (after all who cares about "no merguez on couscous", when the merguez is that good?), incredibly tacky old décor which looks dusty but actually isn't.

                                  L'Atlas: more classical-style Moroccan Fassi (from Fès) couscous, fabulously fluffy couscous grain (fine-grained but white), vegetables well taken care of (instead of being the poor soggy things they are elsewhere), nice brochette d'agneau, have a dessert (for instance the baghrir with honey) and you've eaten for three days.

                                  These are really my two favorites.

                                  Going back to the Figaroscope, just a quick rant: some recipes seem to attract BS like flies — bouillabaisse, cassoulet, couscous... And I've always been amazed at how much nonsense is uttered about couscous, some by folks from "over there". For instance the Algerian architect interviewed in the Figaroscope article says there is "a golden rule of couscous, which is that everything (meat, vegetables, etc.) should be cooked in the couscous broth". I don't know where she got that from. There are probably thousands of couscous recipes all over the Maghreb and many of them include meats and other elements that are not cooked in the broth. Sometimes there isn't even any broth.

                                  1. re: Ptipois

                                    Both places sound perfect. Thanks, I'll probably go, too.

                                    As for cooking meat in broth, well, I bet there are some Brits who would say the only way to cook beef is to boil it, the way their grandmothers did. Fine for corned beef or corned lamb, but the "only" way, yeech.

                                    1. re: RandyB

                                      "Fine for corned beef" and pot au feu, and bolo misto, and poule au pot....

                                      1. re: vielleanglaise

                                        ... ragù, turkey in mole, sukiyaki ...

                                        1. re: tmso

                                          Ok, ok, of course there are lots of other dishes where meat may cook in broth. I was referring to the original point, where the interviewed, supposed "expert" claimed there was only one way, or his "golden rule" -- to always cook everything in broth.

                                          1. re: RandyB

                                            Indeed.Corned beef, pot-au-feu, poule au pot, are recipes, which throughout their variations require that the meat boils in the stock.

                                            Couscous is not a recipe but a culinary principle developed in thousands of recipes from Sahelian Africa to Mashreq. There are meat-(or chicken or fish)-boiled in stock recipes and other types of recipes, and there is no golden rule. The only requirement is that they include steamed couscous grain. In borzgane couscous (West Tunisia) the meat is marinated with rosemary then steamed, and a sauce based on tomato and garlic is prepared on the side to wet the couscous. In Morocco pigeons are stuffed with couscous. Dry couscous is served in the desert. Etc.

                                            1. re: Ptipois

                                              Isn't there a recipe where the couscous is cooked in butter, or another fat?

                                            2. re: RandyB

                                              Isn't that (golden rule) linked to the method where the stew (broth, meat, veg) is used to steam the couscous that sits on top of the cooking dish. This means the couscous absorbs the flavours from the steam....is this the traditional Algerian method? But as others say it is one of many approaches.

                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                When meat (+ vegs, etc.) cooks in the broth then couscous is steamed on top. That is one of the most common types of preparation but not a règle d'or. It is also Maghrebi and not just Algerian, you'll find that method in Morocco, Tunisia, the Sahel, Senegal, etc.

                                                When the meats-fish-veg are not cooked in a broth, what you do is steam couscous over water in the top part of the couscoussier. Sometimes couscous is steamed over aromatic water, i.e. there is a seffa (sweet dessert couscous) in Kabylia which is steamed over water containing lavender blossoms, and moistened with lavender water.

                                                1. re: Ptipois

                                                  Is steaming twice, or more, a "règle d'or?"

                                                  1. re: vielleanglaise

                                                    Well, the golden rule is that there is no golden rule... There will always be a place where things are done differently.
                                                    Steaming twice or three times is generally done with fine-grained or medium-grained wheat couscous so that the grain is hydrated in several stages. Water is added once before steaming and once again halfway through steaming, so it's cooked through. But I have seen the same type of couscous being steamed three times or just once. Either way, it works. Some couscous like barley couscous require only one steaming. Attieke (Ivory Coast) which is a type of manioc couscous is steamed twice with oiling/buttering in-between to help break the lumps. And so on. And then there is also the lid-off/lid-on question. Some steam with the lid on, some not.

                            2. Since this thread refuses to die, and couscous is always popular, I'll add an update.

                              I was at Chez Hamadi (mentioned above) a week ago for the first time in so long that I can't remember what I thought of it. I like the red couscous. My mouton was nice, and cooked in the broth. Mostly just carrots for vegetables in the broth, and overcooked. Reasonable service and price. Bottom line: Pretty good, but left me craving something better.

                              Though I had not planned for couscous so soon again, a French friend I had invited out was very eager. She lives near Zerda restaurant (15, rue René Boulanger, 10ème). They happened to be open Monday nights, so that was the choice. First time for both of us.

                              We really liked it. The decor was suitable for a quiet evening with a friend or date. My couscous méchoui (roast lamb) was delicious. The lamb was served on a separate plate, along with a merguez. The lamb was tender, moist, and very well seasoned, with a bit of crisp to the outside. My friend's tagine with dried fruits and lamb chops was also excellent. The one criticism there was that the three generous chops were slightly too red near the bones.

                              Most dishes are around 16€. We had no appetizer and still couldn't finish our main courses. The people next to us said their "brick" (savory, deep-fried pastry appetizers) were very good.

                               
                              6 Replies
                              1. re: RandyB

                                Zerda is run by a living encyclopedia of couscous. Everything meat-related is excellent, but the vegetables are way overcooked, to the point of disintegration, so I am surprised you did not mention that. At Chez Hamadi I never noticed that problem. Usually the chickpeas, carrots and turnips are perfectly done with a touch of crispiness, only the courgettes are sometimes mushy but their main problem is that they are too scarce. At Zerda the couscous grain is okay but does not compare with the (secret) red couscous recipe at Chez Hamadi or the perfectly steamed, hand-rolled fine-grained couscous at L'Atlas.

                                1. re: Ptipois

                                  I agree that the red couscous was outstanding. But the vegetables were just the reverse for my two visits. None in the broth at Zerda were overcooked, not even the courgettes, while they were at Hamadi. If there were any turnips at Hamadi, I didn't see them.

                                  Maybe it was because it was a Monday night and we started at 8 pm. We hadn't given them time to overcook the vegetables. Our good luck.

                                  1. re: RandyB

                                    i had turnips at hamadi about 3 days ago.

                                    1. re: markseiden

                                      Well they always have turnips and they make up most of the bulk, with carrots. Someone must have eaten all of them before Randy arrived.

                                2. re: RandyB

                                  And what about Chez Mamane on the Butte aux Cailles in the 13th?... Le Fooding's best "bouillon" of the year award

                                  Although not a big fan of couscous (too many vacations in the Maghreb, eating pretty nasty "authentic" versions, off the tourist track), I do agree with Randy that Zerda is usually a pretty good bet and better than Chez Hamadi. But do try Chez Mamane for comparison... so much better than Zerda or Chez Hamadi.

                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                    Just the fact that Le Fooding's all over it would be reason enough to keep me away from that place. But since you recommend it, I'll go dip a toe.

                                    We'll agree to disagree about Zerda versus Hamadi. Some detail was wrong every time I was at Zerda and the grain is nothing to write home about.

                                3. I've refrained from commenting to avoid ridicule but I make my own and it's pretty good and I also (gasp) once ordered from "Allo Couscous" and it too was pas mal.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                    It is not easy to screw couscous, but some people (not you John) try very hard to, and succeed.

                                    Last week in Périgueux after the Salon du livre gourmand a few of us authors-journalists-publishers-bouquinistes ended up in a Moroccan restaurant that was named Amadeus and played Irish music in the background. Everything from brik to couscous was perfectly horrible. So when you are in Périgueux, avoid that place. Avoid many others, too.

                                    Allô couscous is honest couscous, better than many restaurant options in Paris.

                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                      It is not easy to screw couscous..."

                                      Ah, the good old days....

                                      I went to a place in Ornex outside Geneva a couple years ago and I swear they dumped a can of something on the plate...