Saturday, March 6, 2010

Casablanca - East Bank, U of M, Minneapolis

After much delay, Mr. H and I finally hit up Casablanca. I was surprised to see this little hidden restaurant is actually quite beautiful. Nestled besides the Profile Room building on the East Bank, Casablanca is a cozy little eatery with lots of modern, sleek touches. Pretty lights, sleek bar and flowers, and comfortable seating (double bonus.) The menu offers African, Middle Eastern and Somali cuisine, along with burgers, pasta's and crepes. This mish-mosh can be a little scary in restaraunts - but off we went!

They don't serve any alcohol at Casablanca, so I had an African tea. It was way sweet and cinnamon-ey, but comforting on the cold night. For our appetizers, we ordered the Sambusa (A favorite Arabic, Turkish, and Somali pastry, similar to a turnover or spring roll made with ground beef, onions, garlic, cilantro, and tomatoes. Two pieces - $3.95) and they were out of the spinach crepe, so we got a chicken crepe instead.


These are pretty similar to the Indian samosa. Meat inside of pastry. This was beef, and was pretty simple. There was a kick of spice, but it could have used a dipping sauce to enhance the flavors.

Chicken Crepe (Chicken and mushrooms with veloute sauce- $5.95)
This thing was weird. The crepe itself was fine. But the cream sauce was like cream of mushroom soup, and the interior appeared to be frozen veg from the bag thrown in with some shredded chicken. Not great.

They have about 87 things on the menu I want to try. I tottered between the Kay-Kay (something I had years ago, and isn't an easily accesible Somali dish) and a chicken entree. As much as I wanted to try the Kay Kay again, I opted for the Chicken Sonoma (Chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese, feta cheese, mushrooms, topped with cream sauce, and served with soft saffron basmati rice - $11.95), regardless of the fact I was told it was "pre-stuffed" when I asked for no mushrooms (yikes?) Mr. H ordered the Goat (Slow cooked goat meat caramelized with onions and cilantro - Served with basmati rice or pasta - $9.95.)

Chicken Sonoma

As you can see, they give you a gigantic mountain of saffron rice. This rice is soooooo good. Nice and saffron-ey, with raisins and not overcooked at all. I want to create this at home so I can take bowls of rice with me to work several times a week, maybe mixed with some protein or an addition of vegetable. I was a bit apprehensive when I approached my chicken, but was pleasantly surprised! The chicken was moist and tender and had great flavor. When I got to the middle, I became confused. I was seeing (and tasting) some sort of filling with sun-dried tomatoes, no real presence of cheese (or mushrooms.) The cream sauce was out of this world good, but there was so little of it. It was rich and buttery and deep. I wanted more! I also wish I had more cheese. I got no flavors of goat or feta cheese at all.


Mr. H also got the same huge pile of rice, with what looked like little "nibs" of goat meat, on the bone. I've never had goat outside of sauce. These were plain, and cooked well. But the taste was certainly different. The texture was either slightly fatty, or like roast beef, and I struggle to describe the flavor. It was decidely more "gamey" than what I am used to. I am not sure how goat is SUPPOSED to taste, but this really tasted like... an "animal." Not dirty at all, just a bit different from what I am used to. I'm not explaining it well - it's hard to describe.

After we were finished, I asked to see the menu again, due to my confusion over my dish. Upon my questioning, our server (who was great) mentioned the filling was supposed to have sun dried tomatoes in it (before I even mentioned what it was), and that they must have accidentally left it of fthe description. Not complaining though, because the sun dried tomato was delicious with the chicken. But that's a dsitinct flavor, so I do hope they correct the menu listing.

Overall, I really liked Casablanca and will definitely go back. I am intrigued to try their pasta dishes (just to see, yknow?) and the Kay Kay. Bonus is that they have coupons on - I got a $25 gift certificate for 8 bucks. There are a few conditions (minimum of $35 purchase, and mandatory 18% gratuity) but it still comes out to be a good deal!

-Nice atmosphere. Very cozy, but modern
-Chicken Sonoma
-Chicken Sonoma sauce OMFG.
-Saffron rice!
-Our server was really well spoken and pleasant makes it possible to get a crapload of stuff without breaking the bank!

Not so greats
-The chicken crepe
-The goat, but maybe I just don't like goat
-African tea, but that's just because I don't like cinnamon!

Casablanca Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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