Famously, rock ’n’ roller Jerry Lee Lewis once lit his piano on fire, strutted offstage and dared the next act to “top that.”
In a similar vein, the ever-popular Two Brothers Bistro Greek restaurant in north Fort Worth had a Jerry Lee Lewis-power hold on its loyal clientele, as it doled out some of the tastiest Greek food around. And then, suddenly, Two Brothers served its last dish, and all but dared another restaurant to top it.
Casablanca Greek Mediterranean Cuisine has gamely taken up the challenge.
Several months ago, it moved seamlessly into Two Brothers Bistro’s curving, sun-filled space at the well-trafficked intersection of North Beach Street and Basswood Boulevard. Syrian-born Adnan Alabd, co-owner and head chef, serves a winning hybrid of the best of the Middle East (classics like tabouli, hummus, falafels and kebabs) with a purposeful preservation of some of Two Brothers’ greatest Greek hits (gyros, moussaka, souvlaki lamb and spanakopita).
Casablanca’s Greek salad ($6) is a worthy homage to Two Brothers’, overflowing with sickle-shaped red onions, briny kalamata olives and a heavy shower of feta cheese.
The Casablanca family-style platter ($35 for two) is the most efficient way of taking the gastronomic tour of both the Greek Isles and the Middle East. Greece is the first stop with succulent dolmas, grape leaves generously filled with cloudlike basmati rice, onions and tomatoes and punched up with plenty of spices. The Middle Eastern profile is led by the grilled kofta (ground meat) kebabs. The lean ground meat has been formed into moist cylinders and grilled on wooden skewers. The kofta skewers, commonly seen at Lebanese and Syrian tables, are joined by their Greek and Mediterranean relatives, done with chicken and lamb. The brochettes of chicken and lamb are both pleasingly charred and redolent of smoke.
Syrian and Lebanese cooking are further represented by two kibbeh, dumplings whose outer layer is a mix of bulgur wheat and ground beef — all then smartly deep-fried. Each kibbeh encases a beguiling mix of more ground beef, deeply burnished onions and pine nuts, all dusted in an herb and spice amalgam of cardamom, ginger, cloves, dry lemon and cinnamon.
Yet another culinary envoy from the Middle East is chicken shawarma: jagged little slices of heavily marinated chicken breast, fresh off a vertical rotisserie and tinted the ruby-red color that is the calling card of the tart regional spice combo otherwise known as sumac.
The Middle East and Greece converge in a trio of pies, each boasting a gossamer-light crust and hosting a different filling: creamy spinach, rich beef and gooey cheese.
The family-style platter culminates with a final tip of the hat to Greece by serving up two of the lightest imaginable portions of baklava, two phyllo dough triangles lovingly sprinkled in honey and flecks of a combination of walnuts, cashews and pistachios.
Casablanca is rightfully proud of its Middle Eastern cooking, but it also honors the Greek dishes that put its previous tenant on the map, and made it the popular destination Casablanca hopes to one day be.