By David Minsky
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Another entree consisted of half a roasted Cornish hen nestled in the center of a pile of fluffy and firm couscous, the tiny grains of semolina also supporting a host of steamed vegetables, including zucchini and potatoes, as well as chickpeas and raisins. Lightly spiced and falling off the bones, the hen itself was delectable.
During certain times of the year, you might discover veal, hare, pheasant, or quail on the menu. No unusual game was offered the night we visited, but we didn't go away meatless. Though we passed up beef kebabs and beef tagine, we did choose two lamb dishes, both of which were satisfying. A simple roasted lamb -- two big boneless hunks and one shank (on the bone) -- was just a little dry but nonetheless tasty; it was served with a side of m'hammer. A dish of buttery rice colored with saffron was a good, palate-quieting partner. The other dish, lamb with honey and almonds, came sans starch. Rich, sticky, and sweet, this lamb was more tender, wonderful to eat between the b'stella appetizer and dessert.
The final course, a platter of fresh melon, pineapple, grapes, and orange slices -- again, to be shared -- was interspersed with pieces of yet another pastry, this one comprising (among other ingredients) chocolate, peaches, and grapes. The waiter also brought individual fruit cocktails, which seemed like the familiar canned kind with diced peaches, pears, grapes, and maraschino cherries, until we caught a whiff of the powerful orange blossom water that enhanced it. He also poured mint tea for everyone, a hot beverage some of my guests loved and some thought was reminiscent of boiled chewing gum wrappers -- a matter of taste, I imagine.
The meal concluded not with the check (although it came eventually) but rather with another hand-washing ceremony. This time, after our hands were rinsed, the waiter produced two vials, one of orange blossom water, the other of rose water. He had us place our palms together and close our eyes, at which time he anointed us with the perfumed liquids. "Now touch your face and make a wish," he said.
I'm never one to pass on a wish, or on an authentic, honest experience, for that matter. Though some diners might find their server's attentions to be excessive and the slow, traditional meal a bit corny, we found them to be both educational and nostalgic. But keep in mind the dining lessons are necessary only on the first visit; after that, you'll very likely be treated like a regular who knows the drill. Of course that depends on whether or not my wish -- a long life for Kasbah -- comes true.
Kasbah. 420 N. Federal Hwy., Pompano Beach, 954-941-4277. Dinner nightly from 6 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until midnight.
Couscous with Cornish hen
Lamb with honey and almonds