The Casbah – April 28, 2012

She said - I should give boy Ali more credit; this business of date planning is more stressful than it looks (although I’m sure it’s much easier if someone can remember his sports schedule and not make you rework your plans at the last minute… ahem).

Last weekend was my turn to plan date night and I chose the Casbah. According to it’s website, the restaurant was voted most romantic in the city 4 years in a row and it came highly recommended by a friend who was wooed here last Valentines. Thankfully Zaidi had never tried to woo (or even eat) here before, so it’s a blog contender!

We found it!!

The Casbah is haaaard to find; it’s in the basement of a nondescript building in the beltine. I needed my Google maps app to walk us right to the door. But the restaurant itself lives up to the promised romance, with its ornate decorations, dare I say sensual Morrocan music, and curtains around each table for some privacy (only a little more privacy – don’t get any funny ideas).

For food, first up was the Khoubiza: spinach, lemon, peppers, and feta (the selling point for boy Ali).

Really just Morroccan spanakopita

It was yummy, but kind of greasy and ultimately unmemorable. And I wasn’t expecting the spinach appetizer to be wrapped in phyllo pastry, but that just means I need to get better at reading menus.

Ordering entrees was near impossible – everything sounded amaaaaaaaazing. And admittedly, really similar. My choice was the Couscous Khoudra (fun to say and to eat!)

Couscous Khoudra with yummy chicken

The Khoudra had a nice, light, almost buttery flavour and big chunks of vegetables (always my selling point). It was mine pre-switch and for that reason, I enjoyed it a lot more than Ali did. His first choice was the really rich Chermoula Tajine (Morrocan Stew) with meatballs.

Chermoula Tajine with Meatballs

Both entrees were delicious in their own right, but the flavour of the tajine definitely made a stronger impression than the couscous. Boy Ali played his usual card and asked for some of the hot sauce that came with the Khoubiza to liven up (read: drown) the couscous.

He said - Lady Ali has not been known to set up many a date, so to say I was quite excited and somewhat skeptical would be an understatement. When she led me to The Casbah though, the skepticism went away and the excitement heightened.

I  wanted to eat at The Casbah for awhile, as I had heard and read nothing but great things about the place. And it turned out to be one of the best date restaurants in the city.  As soon as I walked in, it felt like I had been transported to a different time and place. The look of the interior combined with the middle eastern music offered a great feel, and provided quite the vibrant setting. Add some curtains around each table, and it all of a sudden became quite intimate, which was one of the best aspects.

The spinach appetizer wasn’t much different than a Safeway spankopita, and only came with two which was a bit disappointing. The main dish however, more than made up for it. My Tajine stew was hearty, full of flavour, and left me wanting more. Ali’s dish wasn’t as flavourful, but I would be back in a second to try every other Tajine on that menu. Unfortunately, The Casbah is not the cheapest night out, and though the atmosphere is quite romantic, it seems that it will likely only be a special occasion outing.

The Casbah is an awesome night out, its ethnic, funky, unique and tasty. One negatory was that they didn’t once play “Rock the Casbah”, which a part of me hoped would be playing on a continuous loop the whole night. Huzzah Lady Ali…I will definitely have to man up my date game to keep pace.

Ranking -

Location: 4 out of 5 “I Feels” (The beltline – just a short drive from Zaidi’s! If only the door weren’t subterranean)

Service: 4 out of 5 “Yay Hurrays”  (Very attentive without being intrusive)

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 “Purple Shirts” (Romance out the ying yang! Sensual music and curtains for the illusion of intimacy)

Nicheness: 4 out of 5 “Green Tights” (It’s been voted most romantic four years in a row, so clearly not unknown, but we practically had it to ourselves on a Saturday night)

Price: 2 out of 5 “Overstuffed Wallets” (Sad sad sad. Like Model Milk, an expensive night out for a couple of civil servants)

Taste: 4 out of 5 “Jeepers” (While the tajine is a 6 out of 5 for Zaidi, the delicate taste of the couscous khoudra was lost on his hot sauce damaged palate)

Overall: 23 out of 30 Hella romantic, but definitely a special occasion place. To be filed away for future anniversaries and valentines days.

Final verdict – two awkward sideways thumbs up!

The Casbah on Urbanspoon

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