Restaurateur Karim Bouscou could hardly sleep the summer night the Michelin inspector introduced himself and announced that Park Terrace Bistro was being considered for inclusion in the premiere US publication of the esteemed 2006 Michelin Guide New York City. When the news arrived in November, Bouscou and his wife and business partner, Natalie Weiss, were still high from receiving accolades for their Morrocan-French fusion eatery in the consumer-driven Zagat Survey 2006 New York City Restaurants only months earlier. When the Michelin guide hit the shelves at the beginning of November and their restaurant was included, the couple was understandably, ecstatically proud. Their hard work and long hours were paying off.
Before opening the bistro with Weiss, Moroccan-born Bouscou worked for twenty years in the front end of fine New York City restaurants such as Le Bernardine, Oceana and Tavern On The Green, but kept his hands-on passion for food and cooking on the back burner. Northern Manhattanites are thankful Weiss successfully coaxed her husband out of the culinary closet.
A self-taught chef, Bouscou would go home after work and try to replicate meals chefs had prepared. If he couldn’t get a dish right on his own, he’d return the next day and consult the chefs, then return home and try it again, until he got the dish just right.
With the help of his co-chef, Hakima, whom he describes as having “delicious hands,” a Moroccan saying reminiscent of the English term “green thumb,” he’s getting it right with a well-rounded, moderately priced menu that includes a scrumptious assortment of mostly Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-informed appetizers, fish, seafood, poultry and meat entrees, and perhaps the most impressive wine selection available at a restaurant north of 96th Street.
The night I dined was dreary, biting-cold and pouring rain, but the moment I walked inside I felt warmed by the convivial staff and the rich cayenne pepper and saffron-hued palette of the exotic North African dÃ?Â©cor.
For appetizers we ate an Andalusian specialty of skewered pork tenderloin cubes. The cuts of meat were excellent, grilled perfectly crisp on the outside, tender and moist on the inside, and the flavor from a light dusting of coriander, salt, paprika and cumin was delightful. Paired with the pork was a refreshing frisÃ?Â©e salad that balanced the dish nicely.
The Middle Eastern Hummus Plate that complemented the pork perfectly included fresh chick pea dip along with slow-cooked, mellow bell pepper and eggplant confit-style salads served with warm, fresh pita.
Our shared entrees were mouth-watering. The Filet of Snapper was pan seared to perfection and served with tasty coconut rice, a delicate mango salsa and Moroccan white beans stewed in a tomato sauce. The Chicken Tagine was delectable, a rustic dish with the subtle flavors of preserved lemon, olives, saffron, turmeric and ginger, the tender meat fell from the bones. It was served with pomme frites, perfect for soaking up the dish’s flavorful juice.
It’s clear that Bouscou has only begun to realize the full potential of his culinary talents and vision for the restaurant. In years to come you will hear more about Park Terrace Bistro. For now, pay them a visit. Hop a train uptown, or take a stroll to this Northern Manhattan gastronomic gem. You’ll be happy you made the trip.
The restaurant is currently taking reservations for private parties up to 60 people for the holiday season. They are located at 4959 Broadway between 207th and Isham Streets. Their phone number is 212-567-2828.