Casbah Restaurant
By Seema Dhawan

A Moroccan Escape

Making The Casbah Restaurant the oasis it is today was no easy task. Owner Rani Drissi spent over seven years collecting the right furniture and looking for the right space. All the pieces of the puzzle came together when he found a place on 11th Avenue Southwest that would make the perfect escape from the world outside. Living up to its name, which means “palace” in Arabic, it’s easy to forget you’re still in Calgary while sipping mint tea in the Moroccan restaurant.

The idea was that you went through a wormhole and landed in Morocco. - Rani Drissi, owner
The Casbah Restaurant, Restaurant, Moroccan food, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options
Relax and enjoy authentic Moroccan cuisine in the comfortable confines of The Casbah. Photo by Seema Dhawan

Keeping It Real

In making The Casbah Restaurant authentically Moroccan, Rani, who grew up in the North African country, recreated his parents’ living room. “Do you remember your living room?” he asked his parents, who live in Morocco, on video chat before letting them see his re-creation. A tea set that was part of his grandmother’s dowry is also on display at the restaurant. “The idea is that you went through a wormhole and landed in Morocco,” he says.

The Casbah Restaurant, Restaurant, Moroccan food, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options
Consider ordering a savoury phyllo-pastry-wrapped appetizer ahead of couscous and tajine dishes. Photo by Seema Dhawan

From Grandma’s Kitchen

It’s not just about the decor at The Casbah Restaurant. Rani’s mother flew in from Morocco to create the menu. Rani wanted to focus on home-cooked meals that would feature the flavours he grew up with. It also involved Skype conversations with his grandmother, who frequently checked in to oversee the recipe creation process. “This is as real as it gets,” says Rani. “I wanted to bring back all of my childhood dishes,” he says. Moroccan-Canadian patrons are often surprised the food tastes so similar to the home-cooked meals they grew up eating. Moroccan cuisine is very gentle, explains Rani. Most dishes have just the right amount of spices, without the heat.

The restaurant’s central entrees are couscous dishes and tajines. Couscous dishes include couscous Sahara with figs, pecans and caramelized onions that can be paired with a choice of several meats such as prawns, chicken and grilled house-made merguez beef sausages. Tajines, which are North African meat-and-vegetable stews, can likewise be paired with grilled meats such as chicken, Cornish hen and lamb. The restaurant also accommodates vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diets. The mint tea made with green tea, verbena and fresh mint leaves is a must try.

The Casbah has become a gateway to Morocco for Calgarians. “We have inspired a lot of people to travel to Morocco,” says Rani. He often finds himself giving tips on travel, bargaining and appropriate etiquette in that country. Though flying half way around the world is one way to get great Moroccan cuisine, you can also save the airfare and drop into the Casbah.

The Casbah Restaurant, Restaurant, Moroccan food, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options
The restaurant is located on 11th Avenue Southwest in the Design District. Photo by Seema Dhawan
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