Tucked away down an alley in Phu Nhuan District, some kilometres away from the centre of Saigon, is Casablanca Restaurant. We arrived rather early in the evening - about 7 p.m., and it took a while to rouse anybody from the depths of the interior.
Full marks for the decor of this small restaurant. In fact it might even win the prize for best decor of any restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City. There are only two large, low tables with sheepskin rugs and typical Moroccan cushions and fabrics covering the seats, each able to seat about 8 people, plus two small tables for two people. The atmosphere and furnishings are immediately attractive, and one has a sense of complete well-being on entering the door.
Then there appears the owner (and chef) - a large Moroccan man dressed in a colourful robe and fez. We opt for a surprisingly expensive but very tasty mint tea, which is poured out of an antique (silver?) teapot from a great height. Excellent, if perhaps too pricey - 60,000 Dong (3$) for one person, whilst a cold Tiger beer cost exactly half that.
We ordered a lamb couscous and a chicken Tajine. I have had couscous in a variety of places, and this one was pleasant, if not outstanding, and reasonably sized, though not copious. My appetite is gargantuan; so I almost always find myself wanting more. The tajine, with its taste of lemon zest, was definitely good.
We finished off with a couple of desserts, which were expensive, small in size and pretty nice, accompanied by mint tea again.
Even if the food was not extraordinary, we had a really enjoyable experience in this restaurant. It's amazing how the decor and atmosphere of a place can make such a difference. I don't like rating the food as average, as it was more interesting and better than that; so overall I can recommend the place highly. Mr. Riahi Noureddine, the chef/owner, has, I'm sure, a faithful clientele, having been in the same location for over 4 years. A really good find.
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