Oasis in the Desert: Casablanca Brings Moroccan Food to Houston

Categories: Leftovers

_MG_9866.jpg
Photos by Troy Fields
See more photos from Casablanca in our slideshow.
When it opened late last year, Casablanca Couscous & Grill became only the second Moroccan restaurant in Houston. And the truth is, for a city that prides itself on being such a melting pot of ethnicities and cuisines, there is a tremendous amount of food that can't be found here.

I'm not talking about individual food items, like mangosteens or horse meat -- although there is a place in Chinatown that I've been meaning to check out. I'm talking about Senegalese food, or Malaysian food, or even basic Russian food. (A moment of silence for the late, great Russian Bear.)

Sure, you can purchase the groceries for these cuisines and prepare a plate of thiéboudienne at home, but it's not quite the same -- especially if you've never had thiéboudienne before and aren't familiar with how it should taste. You're also missing the crucial element of atmosphere that's found in a great ethnic restaurant, the sense that you're on vacation as you dine, that you're learning something new as you peruse the menu and chat with the waitstaff and chef.

_MG_9659.jpg
An oasis in a Moroccan food desert.
Over two years ago, the great blog Food In Houston had an interesting post on this very subject. In it, Anonymous Eater lamented the lack of Portuguese food, Jewish delis and more, while eager readers chimed in with their own missing plates in the comments section.

Since that time, there have been some significant changes in Houston's food scene, albeit not significant enough -- after all, we now only have two Moroccan restaurants instead of Anonymous Eater's one back in 2009. The Ethiopian scene hasn't exactly thrived, either: One of the restaurants he mentioned is closed, and only one other -- Sheba Cafe -- has opened to take its place. We're still lacking in honest NYC-style delis, although we've had at least one notable addition to the New Mexican category with TQLA.

For last year's Best of Houston® issue, I put together an extensive list of available cuisines in Houston for our cover story, Planet Houston. But in that list -- and in the story, as well -- you'll see glaring omissions. Most of the African continent is dreadfully underrepresented, as is South America save for the dozens of churrascarias that have only cropped up because Texans love their meat -- and love it in large, unending portions.

Myself, I'd love to have a yakitori joint like Yakitori Totto in Houston, or another Puerto Rican restaurant to complement Tex-Chick. I'd love to have a more formal, sit-down Filipino restaurant -- a lack that my friend Dr. Ricky has long-lamented as well -- as well as a more casual, informal Spanish restaurant that serves authentic tapas and doesn't cost a arm and a leg. I'd love to see a Swedish or Nordic restaurant that isn't IKEA, and I'd love to see any Portuguese food at all, anywhere.

But at least we've making progress in the direction of Moroccan food with Casablanca, the subject of this week's cafe review. What cuisines are you missing, readers?



Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Location Info

Casablanca Couscous & Grill - CLOSED

5506 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
15 comments
Ed T.
Ed T.

I actually miss Venezuelan cuisine (Casablanca inhabits the spot formerly known as Miguelitos) - I really enjoyed a lunch of arepas when I was in high school (in, of all places, Caracas.)

smepper
smepper

one of the problems is that most of the great ethnic cuisine in houston is outside of the loop, where rent is cheap and in areas where most people haven't heard of places like lupe tortilla or collinas (ignorance can be bliss). there's actually a pretty wide variety of african restaurants if you travel outside the beltway, in the alief/stafford area. the problems are

1. according to many of the posts/comments i've read on this blog, many people believe they will spontaneously combust if they had to drive past the loop (it's not true, i promise!)2. these hole-in-the-wall joints are also hidden in strip malls (apparently another cause for complain) on small streets3. cockroaches are accepted as neighborhood pets

i would share a few of my favorites but living in chinatown, there's been an influx of obnoxiously disrespectful patrons the past few years who enjoy snickering (loudly) at the often misspelled words on menus, as well as sneering (again, loudly enough for everyone to hear) at menu items and making a show of being grossed out at food they're unaccustomed to while looking ever-so smug that they've learned how to use chopsticks. i'd hate to bring that to any of these other honest mom and pop joints. however, since you're looking for Senegalese and it's right on westheimer, http://bonappetithoustontx.com.

thiebou dieen away

W T
W T

Khmer.

LW
LW

Indonesian (aside from Rice Bowl II, which is fine and all, but there must be more out there!). 

Christine Ha
Christine Ha

I was about to tell you to try Cafe Malay as they're superior to the Banana leaf chain, but alas, I just saw they had closed their doors.  This place would've thrived had it not been in such a hidden (and thus, crappy) location.  Sad about one less good Malaysian place.  Totally agree with a need for a less expensive, less posh tapas place.

Clumsy Plumsy
Clumsy Plumsy

Am in complete agreement on the lack of cuisines you mentioned. Plus, good Greek joints.

Imperia Bar & Grill in West Houston serves Russian, but no idea if it's good or not (nor am I fit to judge... I liked Russian Bear).

Someone mentioned Peruvian in the other thread; the only ones I know are Latin Bites Cafe in the warehouse district and the Lemon Tree in west Houston (one fancy, the other humble; both pretty awesome).

We have a lot of authentic chinese/vietnamese restaurants, but I'd like to see more modern/creative ones as well, places that are taking it to the next level.

Ted Stickles
Ted Stickles

Russian food? I thought Russian cuisine primarily consisted of vodka, underage porn, and bathtub MDMA.

Vadubadu
Vadubadu

you should be the king of houston

Christine Ha
Christine Ha

I just checked to see if they're still open, and I think they may have closed.  Man, I am 0 for 2 today.

Christine Ha
Christine Ha

Noodle House 88 serves up some authentic Indonesian from what I remember.  I think the owners are Indonesian.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Yeah, we even named them Best Malaysian Restaurant back in 2006, I think, but the place never quite caught on. Big shame to lose Cafe Malay.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I've heard pretty awful things about Imperia, so I'm wary of spending the money to be disappointed. Hoping someone else will chime in here that's gone...

Early Cuyler
Early Cuyler

Wow, just had a vision of trying to eat borscht on X.  Not pretty.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...