The more ubiquitous instant couscous becomes, the more the genuine version of this tiny semolina pasta is misunderstood. But once you taste the real thing - moistened and rubbed with oil and butter by hand, then steamed in a couscousière double-boiler over an aromatic pot of stew - you can begin to taste the more profound flavors of North Africa. And that is exactly what you get with this hearty chicken and vegetable couscous at Argana, the diner-turned-Moroccan soul-fooder in suddenly cosmopolitan downtown Lansdowne.
Argana, opened seven months ago by engineer Zouhir Oullaf, serves a familiar menu of Moroccan hits, from hearty harira lentil-chickpea soup to lamb chunks stewed with prunes for a tagine. This couscous, though, was my favorite here, with gingery, turmeric-tinged meat, stewed turnips, carrots, and seasonal squash, too. It's even better with a requested extra side of stew-juice to keep it moist.