But in New York, for the roast called haneed (regular, $10), beef is a relatively affordable option; my plate was filled out with spinach, salty potatoes, olives, and rice. The display case held just two sweets: creme caramel (an Americanized option, said the counterman, that might satisfy English- or Spanish-speaking walk-ins) and a single serving of mahalabia ($3), a runny milk-based dessert scented with cardamom and clove.
Previously, at this restaurant's first incarnation, Marrakich, I learned that couscous royal isn't named for the majestic heap of lamb on top. On another table, plates of the more humdrum couscous were piled equally high. The distinction, said the counterman, is that the royal (medium, $10) is sweetened with raisins and caramelized onions; elsewhere this variation goes by the name t'faya. Customers who prefer a savory style of couscous might balance it with a can of the well-traveled soft drink called Vimto, though the fellows at that other table had apparently brought in their own bottles of blackberry soda.
At the time the restaurant chiefly prepared Moroccan food, as well as a few Yemeni dishes (said the counterman, though I couldn't spot them on the menu) in a concession to its drive-up clientele. The condiments at my table, by contrast, hinted at the jumbled demographic of the immediate neighborhood: salt and pepper, oil and vinegar, Jamaican hot pepper sauce, and a squeeze bottle of Krasdale fancy tomato ketchup.
Since the change of name to Al Kasba in mid-2011, Yemeni dishes have been codified on the menu. One dish that has been deposed from its prideful place, however, is the royal couscous. Its photo still appears below — since the same Yemeni chef continues to helm the kitchen, I'm betting that those other piled-high plates of couscous are similarly satisfying.
Al Kasba (previously Marrakich)
1768 Amsterdam Ave. (147th-148th Sts.), Manhattan