Cuisine: French , Moroccan , Tapas/Small Plates
Menu: View the Menu
Serious restaurant eaters, not to mention hard-working restaurant critics, often experience a weird kind of déjà vu. For example, an instant if fuzzy “wasn’t I here before” moment hit me the minute I walked into Casaville, a charming if unprepossessing month-old French-Moroccan restaurant in Murray Hill; but it wasn’t until I had one bite of the delicious chicken-and-almond stuffed briwat that all became clear. Casaville is the reincarnation, if you will, of another short-lived Moroccan eatery, Darna; but now chef Lahchen Ksiyer – whose briwat I had also enjoyed at the now-closed Soho spot Babouche where he previously cooked -- is fully in charge of the whole operation. The result is a truly enjoyable dining experience -- and one which local residents are already taking advantage of.Review By: Brian Scott Lipton
Ksiyer, a soft-spoken, elegant man, has rejiggered the menu to focus on “tapas” and appetizers, and one can do quite well making a meal of these smallish if not unsubstantial dishes. Along with those yummy briwats, topped with sugar and cinnamon, there’s his absolutely brilliant and utterly addictive wedge of warm brie, slathered in a touch of a honey, and accompanied by fried grapes and brioche toast points; a trio of ethereal, fresher-than-fresh “salads” composed respectively of zucchini, peppers, and eggplant, and a sizzling dish of garlicky shrimp that you can smell well before it approaches the table. (One small complaint; better bread is needed to soak up the garlicky oil and to spread the salads on.) You can even order a tapas-sized portion of paella (also available as an entrée), or a variety of mini-brochettes.
Heartier eaters need not fear; Ksiyer is not stinting on the main courses, offering everything from steak frites to a falafel-crusted salmon filet. An evening’s special of coq au vin came in an ultra-rich red wine sauce atop superb mashed potatoes. But the main event, as it were, is a tagine of couscous, accompanied by both spicy harissa and mild broth, and topped with vegetables, as well as meats of your choosing. While lamb, chicken, and merguez sausage are the norm, we opted for delicious beef cheeks, the night’s special, and were thoroughly sated.
Full as I was, but now totally remembering where I was, I had to go for at least one bite of Ksiyer’s sublime pastilla au lait, made of triangular sheets of crisp flaky dough layered with rosewater cream and topped with powdered sugar and strawberries, and a glass of soothing sweet Moroccan tea. (Of course, I had more than one bite!) If you’re smart, Casaville will become su casa one night very soon.
Neighborhood: East 30s
Entree Price: $15-20
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