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The Beach Gourmet: Casablanca Restaurant: “Play it Again, Sam”:

So goes the popular line attributed to Humphrey Bogart in the timeless movie Casablanca, a 1942 classic about an apolitical nightclub owner (Bogart) and his old flame (Ingrid Bergman), that many critics have cited as Hollywood’s finest moment.

The Casablanca in question here, however, is the long-established restaurant, situated on Lincoln Blvd. at Rose Ave., just at the Santa Monica-Venice border.

The theme here is unequivocally Bogart, Bergman and Casablanca, and upon entry, one feels transported to Morocco, or at the very least the set of the movie, with a myriad of murals, memorabilia and even a mannequin of our illustrious hero standing mysteriously in a period telephone booth.

The restaurant is spacious but cozy, with lights dimmed just enough to enhance the mysterious mood, and some sweet dissipations, such as a disarming minstrel in the form of a female Spanish guitarist and singer, unobtrusively performing in a corner and projecting her dulcet tones gently across the room, as well as an industrious tortilla “magician” producing an endless stream of fine examples from the tortilla station smack-dab in the middle of the restaurant.

The menu is well balanced, but given that they are known for their seafood, I chose the Pescado Veracruz (sautéed red snapper topped with tomato, onion, green olive and capers in a green chile sauce, $12.99) that comes with a choice of soup or salad.

My friend Barnaby, on the other hand, just could not contain his carnivorous urges, and went for the “Play it Again, Sam” (charbroiled filet mignon topped with Dos Equis beer and mushroom sauce, served with rice and beans, $16.99).  He chose the salad starter, and I the tortilla chip broth soup with onion and cheese.

While we were waiting for our starters, we were supplied with hot tortillas aplenty that we enjoyed with Casablanca’s unique salsa, a tasty tomatilla, avocado and cheese concoction that worked well in palate preparation.

Our entrees arrived efficiently on very hot plates, and I was pleased to see a well-dressed red snapper accompanied by fluffy white rice and broccoli (ah, the ubiquitous broccoli).  The fish was tender and flaky, with the ingredients of the topping coming together to create a delicious taste experience, very Veracruz.

Barnaby appeared pleased with the Dos Equis and mushroom sauce, but his filet mignon experience was not as rewarding as my red snapper, as he described the filet as “chewy” and “under par.”  Bear in mind though, that he is something of a Gourmand world traveler, with the most impeccable of tastes, and with the filet mignon coming in at less than 17 bucks, it appeared to be a fair deal.

All in all, I liked this restaurant, I liked my dish, and I liked the theme. Just one last thing.  The line “Play it Again, Sam” is not spoken in the movie Casablanca.  What Mr. Bogart actually said was, “You played it for her, you can play it for me.  Play it!”

Just so you know!

220 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, 310.392.5751 

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