I know. The debate is whether the line went “Play it, Sam” or “Play it again, Sam”. But I’d stick to my line. Play it again, Issam. Issam is the current pianist in Rick’s Cafe. He would invariably play the classic song “As Time Goes By” to expectant dining tourists (yes, we were all tourists lured by the tourism hype) who’d likely collectively sigh while remembering the movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. But alas. Neither Sam nor Issam was around to indulge us on our first night in Casablanca.
It has been over 70 years and the classic movie still hits the spot. Notwithstanding that the movie was shot entirely in the Warner Brothers’ backlot, Rick’s Cafe still draws them tourists in! The enterprising American diplomat who put up Rick’s Cafe Americain hit the jackpot. I bet the wisdom lies in “if you like the movie, you will like dining in Rick’s”. Either that, or there really isn’t much more to do in Casablanca after visiting the Hassan II Mosque anyway. So there.
The cafe’s theme is obviously inspired by the movie classic Casablanca, with the piano bar taking center stage. Our dinner table was on the 2nd floor, by the balcony overlooking the grand piano and under some beautiful Moroccan hanging lamps. Some meters away is a fireplace that evokes nostalgia, just as the curved arches and brass lamps cast luminous shadows on the white walls. Very pretty. If this cafe “recreates” the movie scenes, it is doing a good job. It helps that the cafe venue was a former riad that was restored and redesigned following the movie theme. The architectural and decorative details evoke opulence and fine taste. The beaded lamps on the tables are reminiscent of the movie classic. Every nook and cranny is filled with conversation pieces. Lovely.
Service was slow. But if you’re in a happy mood, you’d likely describe it as “unhurried”. We were. And so we dined “unhurriedly”. Tried Moroccan wine to pair with our biggest surprise of the night. Lamb served in a heap of couscous. We should have shared, but thinking Rick’s Cafe may be serving French portions, we ordered one each. Epic fail. I dreamed of that couscous dish for the next 3 nights.
Well, it was still a lovely first dinner in Morocco. Rick’s Cafe may not meet ALL your expectations, but it satisfied. Forget the movie. Just appreciate the lovely French-Moroccan decor. And share the lamb! Bon apetit!