TASTE THE MEDITERRANEAN
Fans of flavorful food should be familiar with harissa—a hot chili pepper paste that offers a vibrant and wonderful kick to any dish, although it is mostly associated with the cuisine of Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Syria.
For restauranteur Chef Alain Cohen, the beloved pepper paste is so dear to him that he rebranded his Got Kosher? restaurant to Harissa to better describe what his menu offers. It is said that in Tunisia, harissa is the ketchup of the country.
While restaurants are in his blood, Chef’s family owns a restaurant in Paris, the Harissa rebranding aptly pays tribute to his roots. Chef Cohen’s harissa sauce stays true to the family recipe that dates back generations to Tunisia—and while his harissa has heat, the emphasis is on balance, not just spiciness.
According to legend, harissa is so valued in Tunisia that it is said a husband can judge his wife’s affections by the amount of hot peppers she uses when preparing his food. At Harissa, Chef Cohen’s signature Tunisian specialties include homemade merguez sausage, traditional breik pastry, fricasse and pates a la boutargue. The fare at Harissa is inspired by North Africa, refined by Parisian technique, and influenced by fresh California ingredients.
“Our menu is an homage to my Tunisian origins, my family’s Paris restaurant and my American culinary experience,” explains Chef Alain Cohen. I chose Harissa for our name because harissa defines and sets apart Tunisian cuisine. A votre santé, we use one hundred percent grass fed beef, antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken, and non-GMO canola oil.”
During our recent visit to Harrisa we started with a nice glass of wine and refreshing cold beer. The Roasted Cauliflower with tahini sauce was a lovely starter. A great dish to share or to serve as meal if you’re dining solo is the Pates a la Boutargue—angel hair pasta with olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper, and salt-cured fish roe (think Tunisian caviar).
House specialties that should not be missed include the Chicken Schnintzel on a Pretzel prepared with lettuce, tomato, pickles and caper remoulade, as well as the Harissa Spiced Burger made with 100% grass-fed beef, lettuce, roasted tomato, balsamic glazed red onion, harissa mayo on an original or whole wheat pretzel bun.
Fantastic and healthy sides include the grilled oyster mushrooms, roasted butternut squash, and the seasoned cauliflower couscous served raw with olive oil and garlic.
If you save room for dessert, you can’t go wrong with the Warm Belgian Chocolate Bread Pudding served a la mode, as well as Passion Fruit Crème Brûlée.
And do note that the original Got Kosher? bakery is next door still serving a unique fusion of flavors and traditions with its challah and pastries.
Harissa is located at 8914 W. Pico Blvd. Open Sun-Thurs from 11:30 am to 9:30 pm and Friday from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. Closed Saturdays. Call 310-858-3123.
Story By; Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy Of: Harissa