Here’s looking at…Dinner with Dan

Daniel Davis

It is the last review of the year, and I bring you a new cultural food that you most likely have not had the opportunity to sample: Moroccan. A plethora of new and exciting flavors encompasses this culture, whose dishes account for some of the most unique meals I have ever sampled.

In a change of scenery from the typical upscale Main Line restaurants, Casablanca is located in a strip mall and looks like an extremely cheap and shoddy Chinese takeout eatery. However, don’t let the deceiving neon sign turn you off to this establishment.

After walking through the two sets of doors, I discovered a world of false-Moroccan culture imitated via American interpretation. Filled to capacity, Casablanca’s rhythmic beat lured me into the restaurant to further investigate its mystique. I could not help but notice a minimally-dressed belly dancer using thumb cymbals to seduce the male customers. The restaurant was separated into six sectors. In each sector, there was a couch encircling the entire outside of the room with golden, artistic tables and a stale, unpleasant odor. Close to 32 people could comfortably fit into a quadrant, given one golden eating table per group of four. While the mathematics of the establishment was not as complex as it sounds, the waiter situation confused me. It appeared as if one or two men handled every order. They darted around the room – mincing, weaving and dodging any human appearing as an obstacle – in order to get to their destination.

The customers varied. There was everyone from business professionals to a family of eight to a party of six girls, who were definitely abusing the ‘BYOB’ policy. If you are looking to interact and could care less about privacy, you are going to appreciate Casablanca’s atmosphere, including the belly dancers who arrive periodically to entice people to dance.

The menu had its limitations, but the options provided were definitely worthwhile. I had no other choice but to pay a flat rate of $27.50 per person. On the other hand, the price included an eight-course meal that allowed me to choose several different options throughout to sufficiently meet my needs.

We began the evening with a refreshing ceremony to “cleanse our hands.” Post-“self-cleansing,” we were delivered mandatory pita bread and a sampling of dips, including baba ganoush, hummus, peppers/tomatoes, salted carrots and eggplant.

Baba ganoush and hummus were definitely the choices I recommend most of these five options. The next offering was an intricately-designed, decadent-tasting pastry. The sugars and flour atop the treat were tantalizing, until I realized the center was filled with meat; this was more surprising than poor tasting.

The next dish was what I considered the “main course”: rabbit and chicken with lemon and olives. Straight from the bone, the meat was fresh but slim-picking. The juice accompanying the rabbit on the other hand was mouth-watering and went well as a dip with pita. The following food was cous cous below a mix of varied vegetables. There was nothing spectacular about it. It basically just served as a small filler to make it to the next round of food: baklava, another pastry-like dish with a meat-like substance in the middle. It was good enough to try, but not worth finishing. Next came the kebabs, where I could choose from beef, lamb or chicken. Grilled to the maximum, the kebabs were flavored with onions, green peppers and other charred goodies. We concluded the night with a bowl full of delectable fruits. These may have been some of the freshest and best tasting fruits I have had in a 21-year lifespan and definitely left me on a “full-to-capacity,” satisfied note. But, that was only seven courses. To cap off an already great meal, we were presented with the most incredible tasting green mint tea I have ever had. Granted it may have been served at a volcanic temperature and should have melted the glass, but when it finally cooled, the treat was delightful.

In the mood for a change of pace and prepared to enjoy a new and exciting culture? Bring at least $60 and an empty stomach down to Casablanca.