October 28, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 32  

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London Casbah

By Nicole Laidler
Gazette Staff

London Casbah
200 Dundas St.

Gazette file photo
ROCKIN’ THE CASBAH. London Casbah offers a wide variety of tasty treats at reasonable prices.

London Casbah has only been open since July, but Zakia Haskouri's lovingly-prepared Moroccan cuisine is already attracting a loyal clientele.

"What I am serving here are classical dishes, typically Moroccan, authentic of course," Haskouri, who moved to Canada in 1995, says. "Everything is fresh, everything is homemade."

Harira ($3.95) is one of Morocco's most famous soups. Made with tomatoes, chick-peas and lentils, and spiced with coriander and cilantro, this soup is a wonderful and warm way to begin a meal.

The VIP Treat ($11.50) presents a selection of appetizers to share. Chicken Briwat, triangular phyllo-wrapped chicken and Minced Meat Phyllo-Cigars have exquisitely subtle flavours and the pastry is crisp and light - the way phyllo should be.

There are eight main courses to choose from - all are served in traditional Moroccan clay dishes called tagines. Less adventurous diners can enjoy a generous serving of Cous Cous with Lamb and Seven Vegetables ($12.75) or Chicken or Beef Kobabs served with vegetarian Cous Cous ($11.75). The meat is marinated before being grilled over a low flame and the chicken is very tender without being dry.

Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives ($11.50) is one of Morocco's classic dishes. The chicken literally falls off the bone into a rich, thick sauce whose sweetness is balanced by the tart lemons and olives.

Chicken Pastilla ($12.75), the "food of kings," is usually only served on special occasions. Layers of saffron-spiced chicken, scrambled eggs and onion are baked in phyllo pastry, which is then sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon, toasted almonds and orange blossom water. The sweetness of this dish may surprise Western taste buds - it's almost like eating a delicious dessert for dinner.

But London Casbah's real desserts are worth leaving room for. Haskouri makes her Moroccan Baklava ($3.25) with honey instead of syrup. It's not as sweet as its Greek counterpart. Ghriba ($3.25) are mouth-watering Moroccan shortbread cookies, made with ground almond and sesame seed paste.

No Moroccan meal would be complete without a pot of mint tea. The London Casbah offers a refreshingly light version ($3.75-$7.75) brewed with fresh mint leaves and orange blossom water. It is served in ornate Moroccan teapots and traditional glasses.

London Casbah's dinner menu may be a bit pricey for a student budget, but the restaurant offers a lunch buffet featuring many of the most popular dishes for only $9.99. And with an exotic décor of Berber carpets, colourful wall-murals and a waterfall, the London Casbah is one downtown oasis worth a visit.



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