Just a few short years ago, Alphabet City was treated like the ugly ducking of the Village. Though technically neighbors with the East Village, it would take a lot to get someone to trek the extra ten minutes east and get to those elusive lettered avenues.
Now, all that has changed with the emergence of fine dining establishments and bars, including Casablanca which opened earlier this month.
Owner Amar Patel opened Fire and Ice Hookah Lounge in 2008, Long Island’s first hookah bar in 2008, in addition to a hookah supply and distributing business. Now, Patel has ventured into Manhattan with the opening of Casablanca.
The space on the first floor is adorned with Moroccan lanterns and vintage artwork where diners can share delicious small plates paired with well-crafted cocktails and perhaps a hookah on the side. The underground speakeasy lounge, Fes Down, is named after the third largest city in Morocco, provides guests with a more traditional Moroccan experience like no other. Their hookah selection includes a multitude of flavors and signature herbal blends, including Banana Split, Melon Mania, Sour Patch Kids, and Pan Masala.
To start off our dining experience, we tried the delicious cocktails from the menu curated by Master mixologist Sonny Nelson and Artemio Vasquez, formally of Pegu Club and Pio Pio. The bogart mint sour with Maker’s Mark, fresh lemon, orange, mint, and demerara syrup is a refreshing and light drink, reminding me of summer days soon to come. The Perisian 75 is a fragrant blend of muddled strawberries, champagne, gin, and elderflower.
Chef Wesley Wobles brought his extensive experience from restaurants in both NYC and Paris to create the Moroccan-inspired menu, which is warm and exotic while still being familiar. We shared one of their most popular appetizers, the mac and cheese duo with green apple and bacon on one side and lobster with chives on the other. Other customer favorites include the braised lamb shank, the lollipop wings with a sambal glaze, and the zucchini cakes with preserved lemon yogurt sauce.
The main entrees include a wide range of dishes, from the lamb moussaka to the pan-seared bronzino. The roasted chicken with thyme was incredibly tender and juicy, accompanied with a side of flavorful vegetables. The giant wild mushroom ravioli with spinach and ricotta is a delicious and filling vegetarian option.
For even more authentic Moroccan dishes, the standout plates includes the yam and beluga lentil casserole seasoned with coriander and cumin and the Merguez and vegetable stew with poached egg.
This new French-Moroccan restaurant breathes warm light upon Alphabet City. The decor is sophisticated and slightly retro with fun geometric shapes, and also welcoming enough to call it your usually weekly meet-up spot with your close pals.