IMG_4649Last time, I showed one of the restaurants we visited in Casablanca, La Sqala. We never had a bad meal in Casablanca, even when it was take-out sandwiches from a tiny shop–there are many of these, sometimes two or three in a row. They have a couple of tables inside, a glass-front counter on the street displaying gorgeous kebabs and sausages, and an open kitchen just behind. Like a tiny diner, Casablanca-style.

The day Morocco played in the World Cup, some friends advised us to take it easy at our AirBnB by the end of the match, because a win would have crazy celebrations in the street, best appreciated from five floors above rather than in the midst of. Although I have to say, at least in Morocco you don’t have to deal with belligerent drunks.

We wanted to explore the Gauthier quarter, which was a bit more chic and modern than Derb Omar, where we were staying. And my kid and I both had found good comments about the Mood Café, so off we went.

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l’Etoile Centrale

Uncharacteristically, we didn’t take photos. It was international modern, the kind of place that could be in Paris or New York or Sydney. The food was excellent but also international modern. The Carnivore had a steak (a steak is a steak is a steak) and the kid and I had tartines, one with salmon the other with chicken. Very nice, with fresh ingredients, but what you would find at a good upscale café anywhere.

On the one hand, I think it’s great that people have choices for eating, and that they aren’t stuck with the same local specialties everywhere they look. Our friends informed us that Casablanca residents don’t eat Moroccan food when they go out–they eat that at home, and they have very high standards. So when they go out, they want something different–Chinese, Lebanese, French, Italian, international modern healthy.

59.Taureaux resto
A Spanish restaurant, if you couldn’t guess.

P1100411In fact, the most sublime meal we had was at our friends’ home. OMG. We didn’t take photos of that either. Briouats, a big meze of cooked but not hot vegetable dishes, then a tajine that made me want to cry tears of joy.

Back to the Mood Café. It was nearly empty when we arrived. We ordered and watched it fill and fill and fill. Somehow I managed to sit on a banquette right under a big screen TV showing the match against Portugal. That meant EVERYBODY was facing me but, happily paying not one iota of attention because they were all riveted to the screen above my head. And I had the best deal–I got to watch the spectators.

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Chicken pastilla at l’Etoile Centrale. I am going to make this!

A table just behind the Carnivore added more and more people. A mixed crowd in almost every way–they were all Moroccans but split about 50-50 men and women; the ages seemed to range from early 20s to late 40s; some of the women–the older ones–wore Western clothes and had their hair loose, while some others–including the youngest in the group–covered their hair. The youngest woman wore a tightly pinned headscarf in maroon polyester that matched her loose pants; she had a loose white tunic with that and Converse All Stars. Her face was as round as her oversized, gold rimmed glasses, and, unlike the other women, she didn’t have a speck of makeup. She was the most enthusiastic of the group. She drew her legs up, sitting Indian-style on the chair, sometimes hugging her knees as she stared at the TV, looking as if she was going to burst into tears (Morocco didn’t play well).

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Vegetable tajine
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Mechoui lamb

We watched everybody react as one, heaving with excitement, jumping up, grabbing each other’s arms so tightly their fingers turned white, their hopeful faces so bright they could compete with the sun, and then…the disappointment as the goal wasn’t scored. Their faces fell. Several men held their heads in their hands.

As it turned out, Morocco lost and there were no celebrations at all.

45.Resto Zayna
Live music at Zayna.

We also ate at a good restaurant in the Habbous neighborhood. Habbous is a new medina, built in the 1920s, much calmer than the old medina. We were approached by an old woman who was recruiting people for the Zayna restaurant, which happened to be the one we wanted. Delicious food! No website….

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Chicken tajine. It was very sweet. I love sweet with savory.
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Mixed grill chez Zayna.

Then we went around the corner to Bennis Habous, a bakery, where you buy goodies by weight. Just point, and they’ll put them into a box for you to take away.IMG_466155.Pâtisserie BennisAnother restaurant was l’Etoile Centrale, directly across from the Central Market. Very pretty inside, but no match for Zayna or home cooking.P110040761.Resto 2

The New York Times had an article last week about Rick’s Café in Casablanca.

So much food. So little time.

 

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30 thoughts on “Casablanca Cuisine

    1. The food was amazing. And I loved the old architecture, even if, as some Moroccans say, we shouldn’t expect them to live in the past any more than Westerners do. But Casablanca is a mix of old and new.

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      1. Maybe I would sign up for the tour also….. That would be a fabulous idea…. not in the summer though. Something to think about in your spare time…..
        Ali

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  1. I adore North African food. When I lived in France previously, I used to go out for a ‘couscous’, as we called it, on a weekly basis. In the UK, it tends to be a curry! We have found a great restaurant for tagines etc in Toulouse but would love any recommendations for the Carcassonne area!

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    1. The group of friends (who reflected the other patrons at the Mood Café) were so typical of people we saw in Casablanca, with a mix of traditional and Western, men and women.

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  2. THE KID is interested in FOOD!THATS A PLUS…………
    OH, MORROCCO I don’t think I will ever get there!!!!!!!!
    Probably, a good thing as I would GO CRAZY in THOSE MARKETS!!!!!!!!!!!XX

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I LOVE Morocco! And the food! Pastilla was the first thing I cooked when I got home. Love the combination of sweet and savory! Thanks for taking me back with you!

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