A new Libyan storefront cafe offers new spins on familiar ingredients

There are plenty of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants throughout Squirrel Hill. Now, a new joint, Bisou, turns the globe further west and south, offering cuisine from the North African nation of Libya. 

This tiny storefront restaurant is an unassuming space -- a counter to order, a drinks cooler and a couple of small tables. It's sparsely decorated … except for one cinderblock wall painted with a striking image of a madly grinning face surrounded by big blocks of color. 

The menu has about half-a-dozen items, most variations of meat-starch-veggies fried. One could start with "Libyan soup," a hearty-looking pottage of orzo, chick peas, vegetables and chicken. 

I opted for Bisou's signature dish, "Libyan rice," which was a winner: fragrant yellow rice topped with syrupy raisins, sliced almonds and chunks of lamb's liver. The dish delivered a satisfying blend of flavors and textures -- well-seasoned rice (with a peppery kick), chewy sweet fruit, crisp nuts and the lamb's earthy meatiness. 

For a side, I chose the meat samosa: spicy ground beef and peas mixed with mashed potato, in a deep-fried pocket. (A lentil version is also available.) The samosa was smaller than its Indian cousins, and with a thinner wrapper, but I found this shape delivered a better ratio of crust-to-filling.

I took my food to go and was glad I did. Turns out that this spicy, fried food was a perfect match for the chilled pale ale in my fridge. 

2108 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill. 412-421-0142



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