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Longtime Hillcrest Moroccan Restaurant Starting Next Chapter in the Valle de Guadalupe

Kous Kous is reopening next month in Baja’s wine country

An assortment of dishes inside Moroccan tagines. Jesus Cristian Roman Carrillo @Wents_

Hillcrest landmark Kous Kous Moroccan Bistro will soon reappear in Baja California’s Valle De Guadalupe after permanently closing on Fourth Avenue in July 2021 following 16 years of operation in San Diego.

Founded on recipes from head chef and owner Moumen Nouri and informed by his upbringing in his native Morocco, Kous Kous Del Valle is aiming to reopen by mid-December on the grounds of the Anatolia Vinos vineyard in the Valle de Guadalupe.

Nouri says that Moroccan cuisine meshes well with the Valle’s Baja Med scene, and plans to keep most of the familiar Kous Kous menu intact. “The menu will be 80 to 90 percent the same, it is a Moroccan restaurant. But a lot of people don’t know Morocco is also in the Mediterranean. I wanted to also add emphasis on what people know of the Mediterranean, like salads and lots of vegetables, good extra virgin olive oil, garlic and also a lot of seafood,” he said, adding the restaurant will greatly prioritize sourcing produce and ingredients from the surrounding region.

The incoming restaurant will feature wines from Anatolia as well as bottles from nearby producers such as Vinos Pijoan and Monte Xanic. Grappa is also made on the property and will figure into the cocktail offerings.

A table set with a wine bottle and a Moroccan tagine. Jesus Cristian Roman Carrillo @Wents_

Last July in a post on Kous Kous’s Facebook page, Nouri opened up about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant industry as a factor in the final shutter of the restaurant, which had temporarily closed in September 2020.

Ultimately, the financial burdens were too great.

“My landlord was extremely generous with me, forgiving all the past months rent but more importantly, agreeing to bring in some partner/investor to help relaunch the business. But because the financial (and psychological) damages were so deep, it would take a whole Moroccan village to bring our restaurant back,” Nouri wrote on Facebook this summer.

The resurgence in Valle de Guadalupe might seem unexpected but in actuality, the chef moved to Mexico three years ago to begin scouting for a second Kous Kous location in Baja.

“The plan for a second restaurant in Mexico switched into a plan for only one restaurant. So I decided to close the San Diego restaurant once it just couldn’t make it during the COVID times and open the one in Valle De Guadalupe. I got a great offer for a partnership from the family that owns the winery so we can work together,” Nouri explained.

Nouri says the process of opening in the Valle de Guadalupe has been different from his experience in San Diego on several levels, “It’s a different culture, he stated. “I spent 25 years in the U.S. but also came from Morocco, so you have to adapt to the Mexican traditions, certain habits, the bureaucracy a little bit, but I’m surrounded by good people — they’re all locals and are giving me the right advice. There are always some challenges no matter where you go.”

A man stands in front of hanging Moroccan lights.
Kous Kous head chef and owner Moumen Nouri
Jesus Cristian Roman Carrillo @Wents_

Nouri says the new location will span a wine lounge and a dining room with dramatic views of the surrounding valley. “It will feel indoors (outside),” he said. “It has all the decor of Morocco — the lamps, the pillows, and the cushions.”

He also plans to offer free hospitality workshops and training to local residents looking to find employment in Baja’s wine country.