Friday, August 19, 2005

It rocks (the Kasbah)

On our way out for a quick teriyaki and shopping for a toaster oven, we found ourselves stopped in traffic on 15th Avenue NW, just south of 85th. I remarked to Zorg that someday we should try Kasbah, which had opened on 85th a few months earlier. He thought it sounded better than shopping, so we circled around, parked, and found ourselves enjoying an evening in Morocco.

When I asked Zorg if he thought we'd be eating in the traditional manner with our right hands, he chuckled. But a waiter arrived with a basin and a pitcher of water. We found ourselves washing our hands at the table, and eating all the courses--include my main course of stewed lamb and eggplant--with our hands.

We ordered the Kasbah D'Yaffa Feast, which is a five-course sampler. It begins with Harira, a tomato-lentil-chickpea soup, drunk from cups. That was followed by a marinated vegetable and carrot salad, scooped up on a foccaccia-like anise bread. The first course, B'stilla, a filo-dough pastry filled with a rich stew of chicken and vegetables flavored with cinnamon, was extremely rich. But the main courses were simple: Zorg chose a couscous with chicken and vegetables and I selected stewed lamb in a savory broth, topped with a round of friend eggplant. The meal ended with another handwashing, followed by diced fresh fruits in rosewater and ginger, and a fabulous strong jasmine tea with mint and citrus. The tea was poured into small glass mugs from a teapot held two or three feet above the mugs. Zorg said that was how tea was served in the village he lived in in Senegal.

I almost forgot the almond milkshake! It was what Indian restaurants call sweet lassi -- yoghurt, rosewater, and honey whipped with crushed ice -- but this version had ground almonds and almond extract as well. There's also an avocado milkshake on the menu, which I can only wonder about.

Kasbah is a large restaurant, divided into rooms: an entrance lounge, the red room, and the blue room, each one filled with layers of rugs. The tables--giant brass trays on sturdy wooden legs--are surrounded by sofas with big cushions and throw pillows and leather hassocks.

There were many couples at Kasbah, but also large parties of friends and families, all speaking French. (Since French, as well as Arabic and Berber, is spoken in Morocco, the waiters were serving them in French.)

I loved the subtle food; Zorg loved the atmosphere, complete with fully costumed wait staff and a professional belly dancer. "We dined like upper-class Moroccans," he said. "It was like going on vacation."

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