“What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?” To answer this line from the movie, we were inspired by a GroupOn that was about to expire, and made the trek to Warrington, PA (nearly 20 miles from home) to the Moroccan restaurant, Casablanca.
Let’s just say it was quite the experience! Not knowing what to expect, we arrived in the parking lot of a large, slightly run down strip mall. The set back restaurant/club was a bit shabby in appearance, screaming for a spruced up paint job. But we came this far, and decided to venture forward.
This was our view from the back corner of the room.
Enter we did. A young woman with heavily glittered eyes met us as soon as we walked in and asked if we had reservations (seeing as how there appeared to be no one else dining, it seemed an odd question.) She led us to a back corner room with low couches and brass tables, exclaiming this room was cooler (after all it was 96 degrees out, what no air conditioning?)
She offered us two somewhat worn brown bath towels and said to drape them over our laps, they would be our napkins—OK, now I’m a bit bewildered. Within seconds our waiter, Ahdam, in traditional garb—who turned out to also be the cook, bottle washer and bus boy—explained the customary cleansing of hands and with that he asked us to hold our palms over the brass vessel as he poured rose petal scented water over them. The “napkin” on our lap proved essential as that was all we had to dry our hands.
The hand washing vessels are put back on the ledge.
Asked if we had any food issues, Russ mentioned his wheat intolerance. Ahdam said they could accommodate this with just a few tweaks to the menu. Additionally he mentioned the food was to be eaten by hand, using the pita bread to scoop up the food. Wait, what?? Seeing my obvious concern, he said forks are available if we were uncomfortable with that idea. I bet you can guess what our answer was! Now that large “napkin” really made a lot of sense…
I gotta tell ya, our waiter, a middle-aged guy, had great flexibility because every time he came to our low table, which was often, he squatted and got back up without any hesitation, impressive! He starting explaining the menu (without giving us one) and we soon realized there was not an a-la-carte option, only the 8-course prix-fixed dinner.
After numerous questions as to what our preferences were for each course, he also asked about our beverage inclinations. Deciding red wine was the way to go, he came back with a bottle of Pinot Noir for half price. Can’t beat that because glasses of wine started at $9 and up, so a bottle for $18 was a bargain indeed.
About midway through our meal, the melodic background music suddenly increased in volume and was decidedly more lively. And we guessed correctly, the young woman who showed us to our seats (her glittered eyes gave her away), came shimmying in dressed in belly dancing attire. We had our own private exotic dancer—well almost private as there was another couple far off in the opposite corner. Not only did Ahdam multitask, she also held numerous jobs, because after her show, Russ wove his way to the men’s room and found her bartending.
Each course is described below, with our choices highlighted in purple, and a picture of each above the description. However, this was food overload for me. I would’ve been satisfied with just two, maybe three courses. In fact, the B’stilla, though gorgeous to look at, was not up my alley at all and I barely touched it, while Russ seemed to enjoy it. With leftovers from initial offerings, and courses six through eight virtually untouched, Ahdam brought us take home containers.
With our bellies beyond full, two hefty doggie bags laden with food, and the temperature on the rise inside the building, we knew it was time to go. While it was an interesting experience, I’m not sure I’d be rushing back anytime soon; although Russ thinks it would be fun with a group of people—we’ll see. “Not an easy day to forget.”
First and Second Courses
Hummous and Baba Ganouj
Served first is the creamiest, richest Hummous in Pennsylvania, top center (chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon); and smooth, rich Baba Ganouj, lower left (eggplant pureed with tahini and various Mediterranean spices—Russ said it was the best he ever had!) Served with pita bread (or a gluten-free style for Russ) for dipping.
Salads Three Ways
Carrots strongly flavored with garlic, vinegar, and spices contrast the tender eggplant salad beside them, marinated in mild spices. The third salad is a medley of crunchy diced cucumbers, green peppers, and tomatoes with parsley, vinegar and oil—all pictured on the decorative plate.
A traditional Moroccan pastry of flaky phyllo dough dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon which created the camel motif. It’s filled with a delectable mix of eggs, chicken, toasted almonds, and sweet cinnamon spices. A piece of artwork in itself!
Chicken or Rabbit
The chicken at Casablanca is melt-off-the-bone tender, perfect for eating with fingers. Topping it is your choice of lemons and olives, super-spicy homemade harissa sauce, walnuts, or dried apricots. The rabbit, an unusual and low-fat alternative to chicken, is cooked in a mildly spiced tomato sauce topped with sweet dates. The chicken was my favorite course.
Beef, Lamb or chicken shish kebabs
Juicy chunks of beef, lamb or chicken grilled with onions, green peppers, and tomatoes and brushed with a garlic and olive oil marinade. Or alternatively, meltingly tender nuggets of juicy lamb topped with sweet honey and almonds, or fragrant lemon and cumin.
Couscous with vegetables
A traditional dish of Morocco, a medley of carrots, onions, and other vegetables served on a bed of steamed semolina grains (Russ had his over rice), topped with bits of chicken, chickpeas, and raisins. We were too full to even attempt a bite at this point.
Basket of fresh fruit
Fresh and uncut fruit- apples, grapes, oranges, plums, and other in-season fruit to refresh your palate. We took all but the pineapple slices home.
Baklava and mint tea
The version of these traditional small pastries served at Casablanca is a unique, sweet blend of walnuts and honey snuggled in between tall layers of flaky, crunchy phyllo dough. The sweet mint tea is poured from a height to aerate and cool it to perfection. Again, didn’t even try…