In the 1942 pseudo-noir film, Casablanca, a nightclub owner is caught in a dangerous love triangle with his ex-lover and her husband. It’s set in the Moroccan city of (you guessed it) Casablanca. Of all the bar names in all the world, the folks from Paradiso decided to expand its culinary options with a new restaurant by the same name.
At first, the menu may seem a bit confusing. There are Egyptian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai,\ and Middle Eastern favorites on the menu. That’s because the theme is inspired by places along the Silk Road, a 600-year-old network of trade routes that started in the Far East and connected with the Middle East and Europe. The menu includes four sections: dumplings, skewers and grill, noodles and a savory section that has falafel, Thai popcorn chicken, banh mi salad and pork belly.
We wanted to try items from different regions, so we started with the Egyptian spiced lamb skewers ($15), which are probably best shared with others. These massive scrumptious spheres are made with dukkha spiced ground lamb, sesame seeds, pink peppercorn and pork, even though the latter is not traditional meat found in lamb dishes. These balls of lamb come with a small smear of mild labneh sauce, which is a Middle Eastern cheese made from strained yogurt. The lamb was cooked exceptionally well for the Texas-size portion, we just wish there was more of that savory sauce to accompany it.
If the food menu was hard to get your head around, the drink menu is a doozy. The frozen cocktail Love at Midnight ($13) is a mix of toasted pandan coconut syrup, pineapple, lime, blended Scotch, Casablanca rum and bitters. The Smith and Such ($13) is made with celery, clarified apple juice, herbal liqueur, lemon, apple brandy, blanco vermouth, rum, gin, lemongrass, cardamon bitters and seltzer.
This place is new to the area and is already off to a great start and will likely soon be bombarded with curious patrons eager to snap pics in the Instagrammable scenery, especially when they wind of Casanova, a karaoke lounge with private rooms, that should open soon. We'll keep you posted.
Casablanca, 200 N. Bishop Ave., Suite 113. Open 5 p.m.- 12 a.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; Closed Monday and Tuesday.