DINING OUT - KHUN OCHA'S COOKBOOK & ENTERTAINMENT
 

Casablanca: By Brian Baxter

My compliments to the Chef!

This elegant new restaurant in Soi 7, off Nimmenhaemenda Road, does not - I must tell you immediately - offer Moroccan food, nor other dishes from North Africa. Its menu concentrates on fine Thai food, sea food and ‘international cuisine’, including steaks and other meats imported from Australia. I’m not sure what inspired the name but I rather doubt it was that sprawling port and think it might well have been the classic movie set during WWII. Nick’s diner, the watering hole run by Humphrey Bogart, seems a lot closer to what is on offer here rather than the hustle and bustle of that poverty ridden, over- crowded city. Still, Casablanca might well consider offering a few ‘typical’ dishes as well as its already extensive menu.
None of which I guess really matters, since here we are in a busy enclave of Chiang Mai; once behind the smart cream and white façade we are into a tranquil oasis of calm and surrounded by décor that has that ‘feminine touch’. There are two rooms, the front one of which has a little coffee bar and a display of tempting cakes, along with dining tables. The interior room has more of the whiter than white chairs and tables, topped by crisp white table cloths and napkins, shining glasses and cutlery, an array of pretty objects and some large vases of flowers.
The aim has been to create a charming and romantic atmosphere, aided by soft background music and a feeling that Casablanca is somewhere to ‘dine out’, not a place in which to indulge in a hurried meal. They have set their sights on customers who might well go to the smarter French restaurants in town, those who enjoy dining at the up market hotels or going to such establishments as Mi Casa or The House. It will be interesting to see how they manage such an ambitious project.
I went there with a Thai friend, and naturally opted for the Thai food, straying only into Western territory for the desserts, from which my friend chose bananas flamed in Grand Marnier and brandy and served with vanilla ice cream, (150 baht), and I settled for mocha-vanilla ice cream. The international section boasts 44 dishes, including a range of steaks such as fillet and T-bone at around 800 baht, and lamb chops, plus grilled sea-food, also at 800 baht. There are soups, including lobster bisque at 250 baht, and attractive salads, including a nicoise, (180 baht), plus a selection of pasta options, (average 250 baht).
We selected three dishes, plus steamed rice and thanks to the generous portions were pessimistic enough to think that we would never finish them. In the event, the serving dishes were taken away empty and the food pronounced among the very best either of us had eaten in Chiang Mai. All were cooked to order. From the 39 dishes on offer we chose Hot Thai herbs with sea-food ginza, green peppers, chili and celery, (250 baht), asparagus with prawns, (200 baht), and a dry massaman curry with fish that was most unusual in taste and 100% delicious.
With it we tried a small carafe of Thai white wine and then another of the red, which was served chilled. Each at 250 baht.
There were numerous cocktails on offer, beer Singha at 80 baht, wines including Champagne and some fancy sounding coffees, with pastries alongside the listed sweets. The service was still at the slightly nervous stage, since the Casablanca is newly opened, but it was smiling, charming and attentive .It will be intriguing to see how the whole venture settles down.
It is by no means inexpensive and to be honest it is not really the sort of place where one would order up a single plate of spaghetti and a glass of house red, when less fancy alternatives abound. But the food we tasted was of exemplary quality and freshness and the presentation excellent. Considerable thought and investment has gone into this restaurant and I look forward to another visit possibly with fellow diners who will try the ‘farang food’.
You will find Casablanca about 300 meters down on the right from Soi 7, off Nimmenhaemenda Road. Tel. 053 226 344 or 053 222 244. They accept credit cards. They also advertise themselves as ‘a bakery’, so you might care to call in for a coffee and one of those cream cakes to check it out. Or treat someone special.

 

Gazpacho

It is getting hotter in Thailand, and time to think again about cooling refreshing soups. Gazpacho is a famous Spanish soup which is served cold. The use of your blender makes this a very easy soup to make, but do not over blend. The soup should have a thick consistency. You can also substitute red and yellow bell peppers for green if you wish.

Cooking Method
Using the blender: first chop up the garlic, then add the cucumber and bell peppers (capsicum), adding tomato juice as needed to liquefy. Finally add the tomatoes and the rest of the juice. If you want elegance, press through a sieve. If you’re going for heartiness, just leave it the way it is. Mix in the olive oil and vinegar. Now refrigerate overnight.
When ready to serve, pour into bowls and garnish with salad vegetables as you see fit: minced or notched and sliced cucumber; thin green bell pepper slices; chopped coriander; and croutons and finally a goodly sprinkle of pepper.

Ingredients                   Serves 4
Tomatoes canned                         1 kg
(or 8 large fresh tomatoes, peeled)
Cucumber peeled and chopped          1
Green bell pepper cored and chopped 1
Onion chopped                                 1
Garlic                                      1 clove
Olive oil                                 2 tbspns
Vinegar white                        4 tbspns
Ground black pepper garnish