To frequent Boracay vacationists, Kasbah is probably not as alien to the ears as it could be to the rest of us. Four years ago, owners Martin and Madonna English brought the flavors of Morocco to our famous white-sand beaches as a companion to their import business. They wanted to continue to live in the spirit of Morocco while residing in the Philippines, so they decided to open up a restaurant.
“It seemed less daunting to open in Boracay,” Madonna explains. “I have no regrets—it’s been going strong from day one. We’ve been there for four years. The ultimate goal was to open one here in Manila, and it has finally happened.”
Kasbah is as close to Morocco as one can get here in the Philippines. The dishes are as close to authentic Moroccan cuisine as they can get, but they still make use of locally sourced ingredients. Spices play a very important role in Moroccan cuisine; the most commonly used ones are cumin coriander, ginger and garamasala. “Moroccan food is not overtly spicy,” Madonna adds. “It is a mix of the sweet and the savory.”
Beetroot & Feta
We decided to take on a different approach by taste testing menu items that don’t usually garner so much attention. Madonna pointed some of her best-selling dishes to us, but urged us to try out those items with more unusual ingredients. In true Moroccan fashion, we started our meal with a cold appetizer (Kemia) made of Beetroot & Feta (P160). This dish is made of roasted beetroot with feta cheese puree and almonds. By the looks of the dish alone, I could already tell that Moroccan cuisine gives almost as much thought to presentation as it does to its flavors. At first glance, the Beetroot & Feta resembles a dessert dish; it looks like a bed of fuchsia jam topped with cream cheese—of course, it doesn’t taste anything like the way it looks. You have to eat quite a bit of it to fully appreciate the flavor because it takes some getting used to.
Your taste buds will be jolted back to the land of the familiar once you try out the restaurant’s Chargrilled Mango Fattoush Salad (solo – P320; to share – P420). One thing that any patron must keep in mind about Moroccan cuisine is that some of its dishes put a zesty spin on flavors that you may have already encountered in the past. This lightly-flavored salad comes with mangoes, pita croutons and a variety of fresh vegetables. There is nothing too daunting about that, right?
Chargrilled Mango Fattoush Salad
The best part, for me, was our main course. I simply adore the Chicken Tagine (solo – P440; to share – P660); there is something about it that makes you feel right at home. Tagines play a big role in Moroccan cuisine. These dishes involve slow cooking in a special pot and are a well-balanced combination of sweet and spicy. The Chicken Tagine is cooked with olives, potatoes and preserved lemons. The preserved lemons alter the taste of the dishes by adding that magical, zesty quality to Moroccan cooking. To accompany this, we had a side order of Couscous (P95).
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Served with Couscous
For dessert, we tried a slice of their freshly-baked Baklava (P275). Baklava is a Moroccan pastry stuffed with walnuts, pistachios and almonds baked with honey and rosewater syrup. This particular dessert is heavy and quite rich; you’re best off sharing this with a companion because it is really chock-full of filling. It is sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and is perfectly complementary to the savory dishes.
We were also invited to try some of their best-selling cocktails: concoctions like Barry Berber Manilow (P218) and Fez (P297). The Barry Berber Manilow is a fun, fruity choice for a nightcap; its primary ingredients are apple vodka, pomegranate and sour. Fez, on the other hand, packs a stronger kick with bourbon whiskey, muddled cherry and orange, and spiced syrup. Your options won’t be limited to these two popular choices, though; Kasbah has plenty of mixed drinks lined up to court your affections.
Barry Berber Manilow and Fez
Manila’s Kasbah has a different vibe from that of the original Boracay branch. Madonna says that things are a little less rustic here in the city; patrons don’t have the luxury of drinking and dining by a white sand beach, but they can always expect to be treated to a good time. There’s lots of entertainment in the Manila branch due to the various artists that Martin and Madonna invite to perform at the restaurant. Aside from acoustic performances, they also invite DJs and belly dancers to shake things up a bit. The line-up changes every now and then, so check their Facebook page to keep yourself in the loop.
Inside Kasbah Manila, located at The Fort Strip
I’m so glad that Kasbah is here now. I don’t have to worry about traveling all the way to Boracay to enjoy my pot of Chicken Tagine anymore.