A little Moroccan eatery appeared on what seems to be the ever-transforming Farnam Street a few months back. I noticed it on my way home from class at Metropolitan Community College’s Institute for Culinary Arts. The restaurant occupies the corner just east of Midtown Crossing at 30th Street. The restaurant had a soft opening three or four weeks ago and plans to open officially with a full menu March 13. On a recent visit I was immediately impressed with the professionalism of the wait staff, decked out in burnt-orange chef jackets, a pleasant surprise in the world of ethnic restaurants. The dining room sports a view of the open kitchen and was spotless though a bit over-bright with intense fluorescent lighting. I thought instantly that it must be the work of Moussa Drissi, chef-owner of Marrakech Gourmet, a sandwich shop in the Brandeis Building food court. I learned later the owner is Drissi’s cousin, Hamid Tariqui, equal to Drissi in hospitality and passion. Tariqui treats customers like visitors in his home. “This is a good job,” he says. “I go to sleep, I organize myself, and people come into my home. I have to have food for them.” Tariqui is in the dining room shaking hands with customers, hugging them, making them part of the family; and it starts with opening his kitchen to them. My mother, sister and I had barely sat down before a hummus plate and zaalouk salad (both complementary) were on the table. Somehow, Tariqui managed to score crisp healthy cucumbers in mid-February, and decent winter tomatoes, to go with eggplant, olives and olive oil in the traditional salad. The hummus plate was mild and disappeared from the plate quickly. Tariqui directed us toward what he thought were the restaurant’s best plates of the day, saying he had just received some fresh lamb. When I went for fries as a side, he steered me away from my ridiculous craving toward a side of vegetables and rice, which were an absolute hit. He served our orders, of kefta, sharwarma and grilled chicken, family-style on a blue and white patterned platter over a bed of rice and the roasted veggies. The names of the dishes may be intimidating, but everything is appealingly simple: roasted meat with herbs spices such as cumin, chili powder and cilantro. We ended up with grilled beef (brochettes), lamb (kefta) and chicken cooked to tenderness with aromatic spices. The vegetables (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips and bell peppers) were the absolute highlight to me. My mom, pleased that I now embrace vegetables, agreed and tried her first parsnip ever, which was woody in texture, sweet and savory like a carrot. The meals were $5.50 for a sandwich, $7.50 with a side and drink and $9.50 for a side and a salad. A Moroccan salad ($6) that we didn’t order but were delighted to partake of came in a similar blue platter. The dish was a Mediterranean medley of fresh cucumber, tomato, parsley and feta cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil. The meal ended with Moroccan tea, which took a long time to brew, and a plate of fresh strawberries and plump blueberries. Tariqui said, “What we have in our refrigerator is for you.” He said something to me in Arabic and translated to English: “If God gives you a kitchen, you feed people.” Tariqui and staff embodied this friendly, open hospitality that I’ve come to expect from Mediterraneans. Casablanca Moroccan Café, located at 3025 Farnam St., will be open 8 a.m.-11 p.m. daily starting March 15. For now, it is open for lunch and dinner.

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