Address: 319 St. Laurent Blvd, Ottawa
Hours: 11am – 8:30pm (Wed – Sun)
My first (and only) time at Idriss came about when our original target for dinner was full, and we were able to snag one of the few remaining tables in this small Algerian restaurant.
We ended up ordering enough food that our two-person table didn’t have enough real estate and we had to slide over to another table! Luckily the restaurant had emptied out a bit by then.
The waits were pretty long, although my guess was that both the back and front of house of this mom-and-pop were understaffed.
Our meal started off with Algerian mint tea ($8), served on an absolutely stunning tea set. The refreshing mint-y green tea came with some roasted peanuts and a not-too-sweet nougat-like treat, which staved off the hunger pangs while we waited for the main portion of our meal.
The Royal couscous ($25) was an impressive plate, coming loaded with lamb, merguez sausage, and a whole chicken leg on a bed of couscous. But wait, there’s more, as it also had squash, carrots, potato, chickpeas, and tomato. The lamb chop was tender and rich, the chicken had a great char from the grill, and while the merguez sausage had a good flavour, it was dry. Overall, it was a very savoury, VERY hearty dish. I would have preferred if Idriss had a heavier hand with the seasoning, but it does make it very approachable for those with more delicate palates.
Although we certainly didn’t need it with how big the royal couscous platter was, we got another hefty main, the olive tajine ($19). A couple of the tajines are a bit deceptively named as they aren’t named after the main protein in them, like this one, which has chicken. The green olives are certainly the biggest flavour though!
I’m not big on olives, but the roasting in a tajine mellowed the pungent flavour. The chicken may have been done a grill and thrown on top, as it had a nice crisp skin with lightly charred edges for flavour. The dish also came with a side of hmiss, a traditional Algerian salad of peppers, tomatoes, garlic and olive oil.
Because the above apparently wasn’t enough, we also got the cauliflower gratin ($18). I think it’s safe to say that this one is a colonial leftover. The piping hot dish is the definition of a hot mess once you get beyond its cheesy top, but it was a tasty hot mess, thanks to warm North African seasonings that elevated the flavour above your typical Boomer casserole.
With leftovers for multiple meals, we thoroughly enjoyed our first time at an Algerian restaurant, and just wished that Idriss didn’t pull their seasoning punches.