By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Remember Kous Kous? It’s in Mexico now.
After he closed Kous Kous in Hillcrest more than a year ago, we caught up with chef-restaurateur Moumen Nouri in Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe, where he just officially opened Kous Kous Del Valle.
“For the last three years it was my idea to open a second Kous Kous. But then the pandemic came and it was hard to keep the Hillcrest restaurant open. So I decided to close it and think outside the box,” said Nouri, adding that his venture south of the border was “financially less risky.”
Nouri held a soft opening of Kous Kous Del Valle a couple months ago. It attracted locals and U.S. friends. Though as of now, the outdoor Moroccan restaurant operates from 1 to 8 or 9 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays.
It is perched on the pastoral grounds of Anatolia Vinos, a vineyard with sweeping mountain views. The outdoor layout seats 75 guests. It is framed by curtains and warmed by patio heaters. Many of the imported Moroccan lamps from the Hillcrest location have been incorporated into the design.
Nouri’s menu is slightly smaller compared to the one he presented for 15 years in Hillcrest, although it still offers classic tagine meals served in clay pots. Also, guests will encounter a stronger emphasis on salads and vegetables.
“I’m going beyond what’s called ‘farm to table.’ Not only am I using local farmers, but I’m also using local fishermen, and local wines, beers and distilled alcohol,” he said.
For customers unsure about navigating their way down to the Ensenada restaurant, Nouri provides free information pertaining to road directions, transportation and lodging. “Anyone can reach out to me through Facebook, Instagram or the website, kouskousdelvalle.com,” he added.
Kous Kous Del Valle is located at Kilometer 73 on Highway 3, between Encuentro Resort and Domecq Winery in Ensenada’s Valle de Guadalupe.
Street eats from Thailand
With no shortage of Thai kitchens found along North Park’s 30th Street corridor, Kin Len is in soft-opening mode with a one-page menu of dishes common to outdoor food stalls throughout Thailand.
Expect items such as crab rangoon “cigar rolls,” hearty soups, chicken satay, basil beef, and a handful of vegetarian and vegan options. Beer is also available.
The cozy interior is festooned in colorful Thai décor and posters. There are also a few tables on the small front patio. 3934 30th St., 619-663-9399, www.kinlen.com.
Culinary fusion in Mission Hills
After a couple years of talk that Johnny Rivera of Great Maple and Hash House a Go Go was planning on opening something cool and unique in Mission Hills, the project finally materialized late last year with Wolf in the Woods. It had been delayed by logistical delays fueled in part by the pandemic.
Now fully up and running, the venture is described as a “unique and intimate wine bar and cafe” with an interior design inspired by art and folklore of New Mexico.
The dinner-only restaurant (closed on Sundays and Mondays) offers a slate of Old and New World wines to complement a menu that draws upon European, Hispanic and Native American cultures. Some of the dishes—many of them tapas—take on savory herbs from a small garden maintained on the property. 1920 Fort Stockton Drive, 619-234-2597, www.thewolfinthewoods.com.
Shooting hoops in the Gaslamp Quarter
A backroom arcade has been added to The Smoking Gun, a spacious restaurant and bar where patrons can joystick their way back in time by playing games like Pac-Man, Galaga, and more than 20 other retro favs. There is even a mini basketball net for ball tossing, and another action game that puts you in the driver’s seat for video drag racing.
Food and alcoholic drinks are permitted inside the arcade. The restaurant is famous for its secret-recipe Mai Tais, brisket tacos, burgers, and all-you-can-eat chicken wings for $18.95 (available from 3 to 9:30 PM on Thursdays only). 555 Market St., 619-233-3836, www.thesmokinggunsd.com.
All the rage in Golden Hill
Since the recent opening of the long-awaited Kingfisher in Golden Hill, our trusty dining informants have beat us to the chase in sampling a large swath of its sexy Vietnamese-French menu.
Earning consistent top scores in the two weeks the eye-popping restaurant has been open are: beef tartare with cured egg yolk and crispy shallots; the poached Louisiana shrimp with cashews, grapefruit and banana blossoms; and the grilled eggplant adorned with pickled ramps, lime, bulgur wheat and seaweed-mushroom sauce.
Chef Jonathan Bautista helms the kitchen. He originates from Georges at the Cove and Common Theory Public House.
As for Kingfisher’s ambitious but succinct cocktail list, we have our sights set on the “Ozymandias,” which brings together Icelandic Aquavit, Mexican corn whiskey, and honey—all with a crust of overcooked rice.
— Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.