Haykel Arfaoui, owner of Perla Taqueria on Piedmont Road, will open Couscous, his second restaurant later this month. It will fill the space formerly home to Amuse on Dutch Valley Road near Piedmont Park, and serve “urban Mediterranean American” cuisine.
As Americans with a North African background, Arfaoui, consulting chef/partner Lotfi Chaabane, and executive chef Khaled Chebbi, are intent on creating a casual restaurant that “feels like home,” Arfaoui says.
“We’ve known each other for 15 years and are more like brothers than friends,” he continues. “This restaurant is about passion. We can make way more money working for other people, but this is what we like to do. We will serve what we like to eat, and look forward to [being here] every day.”
The Amuse space is being cut in half with the back part reserved for private events only. There will be a 35- or 40-seat patio, and a full bar complete with Moroccan chandeliers and handmade tiles on the walls.
“It’ll have a Mediterranean look, mostly blue for Tunasia; beach colors,” Arfaoui says. “It’ll be relaxing, a place where you can step back and breathe after going 100 miles per hour all day. Flip-flops are welcome.”
Taking a cue from Amuse’s closure, Couscous will keep prices under $17, with a variety of options available for $10 and under. Menu items range from couscous (vegetable, lamb, chicken, merguez, and fish varieties) to seafood pasta, flatbreads, soups, and sandwiches. Brika—a fried turnover with potatoes, parsley, egg, capers, and tuna—is the signature appetizer.
Dishes will feature a lot of grains—lentils, farro, couscous—with harissa (a North African pepper paste) for spice, Arfaoui says.
The bar will carry $30-and-under bottles of wine from Spain, Italy, Oregon, Washington, and New York, plus local beers. Cocktails include the Carthage Fizz comprised of lemon juice, blue Curacao, amaretto, and prosecco; and the Hannibal, a take on a mojito, made with aged rum, lime juice, simple syrup, mint leaves, and peach liqueur.
Couscous will serve dinner daily, as well as Sunday brunch.