Monday, May 8, 2017

United Nations of Grub - Algeria (Bar Omar)

I recently reached the last of the initial 3 "relatively easy" countries on my United Nations of Grub list; that is, Algeria (the next group of 3 - Andorra, Angola, and Antigua and Barbuda - will be somewhat challenging). Although there are not a ton of straight-up Algerian restaurants in the metro area (many places categorized as "Moroccan" or "Mediterranean" offer cuisine that shares a lot in common with that of Algeria), there is an offshoot of a famous French-Algerian eatery in Paris called Chez Omar that opened in Brooklyn last year. Bar Omar (188 Grand Street) offers nearly everything that the 40-odd year old Parisian original does (minus perhaps the haughty server attitude), including the renowned couscous recipe that Chef Eric tells me is very labor-intensive and likely found nowhere else in the five boroughs. According to the chef, Omar Guerda (Chez Omar's founder) himself traveled to America to teach him his techniques and dishes before he opened this sister location.

What you see above is one possible way to enjoy that terrific couscous - a silver platter of the light, fluffy stuff arrives at the table with a large bowl of 7-vegetable bouillon (including potatoes, onions, celery, and carrots) and the protein of your choice (in this case, housemade merguez lamb and beef sausages), along with some potent harissa paste for spice and a bowl so you can create your own blend of the various ingredients. On a cool and cloudy April day, this hearty stew is sheer bliss.

Desserts are nothing to sneeze at, either. Chef Eric and his crew turn out a sublime date and rosewater tartine, dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with honey.

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