The Dishes do hookah?
I guess we’ll go by the old adage, when in Rome. Or in our case, Casablanca.
We hit the big city because Middle Eastern food just isn’t easy to find in Wisconsin. And a hookah bar? Well, I’ve walked by them in foreign travels, but it’s usually men only.
There are actually two Casablanca locations, so we didn’t even have to go all the way into Milwaukee. The Brookfield restaurant is easy to find with a big parking lot and a beautiful, modern setting. Multiple seating options include the main restaurant, the bar and the hookah lounge. There is even a patio upstairs, which sounds appealing now that the weather is warming up.
We wanted to eat but also check out the hookah bar, so we got a table in the lounge. Nearby, we observed a group of women sipping martinis, teen boys enjoying the hookah experience, a family coming together to celebrate a birthday, and a few couples out on date nights.
To start off, we had to have the baba ghanoush ($7.95/large)—traditional eggplant dip served with pita bread. We loved the decorative, pink pickled turnips and the lushness of the dip. With its contrary flavors of tanginess balanced with the mild taste of eggplant, this dish could have sufficed as the main course.
We also tried the jibneh rolls ($8.95), which are a kind of crispy, warm egg roll stuffed with spinach and cheese. Dipping them in the fabulous, lightly spiced tahini sauce that accompanied the rolls only enhanced their flavor. I washed mine down with traditional arak ($7), a strong aniseed/licorice-flavored liquor. Nikki ordered Moroccan mint tea ($2.50), which she sipped all night.
For our hookah, we chose peach/melon ($20) from a multiflavored list. The warm, sweet scent was pleasant, but it lingered in the back of our throats (for days). The hookah pipe made for a lovely table ornament, and occasionally someone stopped by to give us fresh charcoal.
Did I need a main course? Well, of course, most of it went home—but I’ll never complain about that. I ordered sabanak chicken ($17.95), which featured perfectly cooked chicken breast stuffed with spinach, cheese, carrots and onions and topped with a light saffron cream. This was a large serving, complete with basmati rice and fresh veggies.
Dinners also come with a light lentil soup. When you add a squeeze of fresh lemon, it goes over the top on flavor.
Nikki, our resident meat-eater, had a hard time choosing her entree. With multiple lamb and beef options, she was on cloud nine.
She ended up picking one of her favorites, beef shawarma. Sliced and marinated, the beef was served with onion, fresh tomato and a side of creamy tahini sauce. A liberal sprinkling of sumac gave the dish a delicious, tangy flavor. She opted for the dinner ($15.95), which included a cup of the wonderful lentil soup and some basmati rice. The shawarma also is available as a wrap ($10.95).
Jennifer selected the Moroccan shrimp kabob ($19.95). Ten plump, jumbo shrimp with nice grill markings were presented with yellow basmati rice, grilled tomatoes, onions and green peppers. The shrimp—marinated in a lemon, vinegar and olive oil concoction—had a fresh, citrusy taste. The veggies were slightly charred from grilling, and Jennifer loved their smoky, barbecued sweetness.
Wanting something light, Helene opted for the vegetarian couscous ($9.95). The large chunks of carrots, zucchini and eggplant were served nicely tender. Onions and chickpeas were also tossed in, and everything was on a bed of couscous mixed with a light tomato sauce and hints of cinnamon. It was quite satisfying.
Our visit to Casablanca came on a Saturday night, and after we had been there for about an hour, two belly dancers started making their way around the room. It’s hard to sit still when you hear the drum rhythms, even after you’ve indulged in a huge Middle Eastern feast.
Casablanca definitely deserves five stars for ambience.