Arriving in Albany hungry tonight I came upon this 6-month-young restaurant on Central Avenue just west of Lark Street. Everything I ordered was right on the money, and I must add here that I have visited Morocco twice and remain haunted by the unique flavors of that country.
To start they offer you a few pieces of that ubiquitous disc-shaped rustic Moroccan bread, I don't remember what it's called but I love its simplicity. They offer the bread with a tiny bowl of soup that reminded me of the wonderful butterbean soup of Fes (but this one was blander but lovely).
I ordered the yummy and complexly spiced carrot salad "Charmola" in spite of the owners' recommendation of the Cherifiya salad (next time!), and a bowl of Harria soup. The Harria is described as "tomato based" but don't expect tomato soup - this is a satisfying lentil/chickpea/tomato/pasta soup spiced with those indescribable moroccan spices.
I took a leap of faith and ordered the chicken bastilla ($8) and am SO glad I did. This adorable appetizer-sized bastilla was delicious and right on the money - I cannot describe adequately this piece of Moroccan culinary genius - but if the sound of a sweet chicken-pot-pie loaded with unique spices and topped with sugar and cinnamon sounds strange - trust me it not only works but is the kind of thing that haunts you years after tasting it!!
This tiny hole-in-the wall space is run by a brother and sister (sorry I forgot their names!). They give the room some character with Moroccan knick-knacks and some hot Gnawan music (sounded like Hassan Hakmoun for the most part when I was there). Top quality chow in a very low budget but friendly and spirited setting, My kind of joint!!
Everything on the menu is so inexpensive and the portions are not huge so I recommend ordering a few appetizers and salads and try lots of things that appeal to you. I did not try the tagines or couscous but what I saw on other tables looked yummy. The lamb was served as a huge drumstick which looked delish to me but might be intimidating to others.
If I lived near Albany I would be dining here a few times a week to try everything on the menu!
But I don't so I can't so all I can do is hope that this little gem will still be here next time I pass through. And towards that end I post this rave on Chowhound so those of you that do live in the Albany area can keep these people cooking.
Casablanca Moroccan Restaurant
14 Central Avenue Albany
11 am - 9 pm
Closed on Sundays and Mondays
Oh, and they have a "breakfast" section on the menu that I would love to try with some Moroccan coffee!!