It started when they ran out of merguez at our local market stand. The surly sausage flipper gave the last sandwich to the person right in front of us, and that decided it: we would hit up Le Cous Cous for dinner and get our own.
This tiny place, run out of a hut on Amtsgerichtsplatz, is what every restaurant find should be: hidden in plain sight, in a former flower shop designated as a historic monument. The Denkmalschutz regulations mean that there isn’t even a sign on the front, just an open side door and some blackboards showing the specials. Inside you’ll find a neighborhood hangout with an upright piano, a few tables, and an open kitchen, all in a cheery yellow and white-tiled space smaller than your living room.
Not only can you order cheap merguez sandwiches (2 euros!) and mains at East Berlin prices (they top out at 12.80 for the Royale), the food comes fresh from the market.
The couscous we ordered last Saturday had the same light green summer zucchini I had seen at Karl-August-Platz that morning, as well as white summer squash, cabbage, and smooth yellow potatoes. My salad had fresh tomatoes and beets, deep green lettuce instead of iceberg, and those same tiny potatoes from the couscous. Toasted cumin seeds were scattered over the three merguez sausages on the side, and there was cracked black pepper on the salad.
Total cost for a meal of merguez with couscous, merguez with salad, beer, and a glass of Leitungswasser served without a sneer: 13.40 euros.
We’d been to Le Cous Cous once some months ago and were pleased. Dropping in on a Wednesday or Saturday, however, on market day, is a revelation.
Ben Aziza, who is owner, cook, waiter and decorator, put fish soup on the blackboard yesterday, and the photo doesn’t do justice to my happy surprise when I discovered enormous chunks of swordfish in my 4.80 bowl of soup.
Oh, and the person who got the last merguez at the market on Saturday morning? It was Aziza, checking out the competition. “Terrible. Like a knacker,” he said.
We agreed that his were much better, and he revealed that he makes his own merguez. It should have been obvious: his sausages don’t have the red dye that squirts out of the ones from the Persian market when you cut them. There’s none of that dog-food aftertaste you can get from the merguez off the grill at the Tiergarten. And they’re cooked very delicately, so that they stay tender and flavorful.
I can’t speak for the quality of the other meats at Le Cous Cous; we haven’t tried them. But Aziza shops at Karl-August-Platz, one of the most expensive weekly markets in Berlin. His place merits a visit just to experience the paradox of eating something in which the ingredients may have cost more than the dish. I fear for his business model, but I recommend his establishment wholeheartedly.
Le Cous Cous is in a little hut on Amtsgerichtsplatz, a ten-minute walk from the Charlottenburg S-Bahn. The M49 and X34 buses also stop there. During the summer, the restaurant opens at 2 p.m. On Wednesdays the restaurant opens at 4 p.m.; on Saturdays it may be as late as 6.