Review: Moroccan Sandwiches from Casablanca

Good sandwiches are surprisingly difficult to come by in Korea but I've been hearing for a while about Casablanca in Haebangchong which specializes in Moroccan sandwiches. Apparently started by two brothers from the region, the sandwich shop has established somewhat of a cult following and the tiny eatery is almost always filled with people. And with the shop's prices, it's understandable why it attracts such a draw- sandwiches are prices from 4,000 to 6,000 won which is especially a deal to the pricier offerings of other eats in the Noksapyeong/Itaewon area. 

Sandwich options here are limited to five: vegetarian, Moroccan chicken, Berber omelette, lamb chili and spiced shrimp. Prices seem to have all gone up at least 2,000 won since they first opened and as of when I went in August, 2013 the vegetarian was the cheapest at 4,000, the shrimp the priciest at 6,000 and the rest of the sandwiches were priced at 5,000.  

Drinks are separate (at 2,000 won) and combos are unavailable. Side options are all 2,000 won and the choices include lentil soup, spiced carrot salad and Moroccan salad. Water is sold separately here and not provided for free so bring 1,000 won if you want water. 

All sandwiches here are made to order and Casablanca is usually pretty busy so wait time can get quite lengthy. We waited about 10 minutes on our visit after ordering but my friend told me he once had to wait 20 minutes for his sandwich and at early morning too. At the very least, it's an open kitchen so you can see them make the sandwiches in front of you so you know the sandwiches are made fresh to order.

Regardless of which sandwich you choose, the fillings for all sandwiches include the same lettuce, tomato, onion, olive, dill pickle and makouda, which is described on the board as Moroccan fried potato patties. During my visit, I opted for the spiced shrimp while my friends went with the Moroccan chicken and the lamb chili. 

The sandwiches come in a chewy and thick baguette with each sandwich roughly 5" or so. For my spiced shrimp sandwich, a thin layer of mayo, shredded iceberg lettuce and such made up the home for the baby shrimps which came spiced up. 

Spiced shrimp closeup

The spices are not only evident in taste but clearly visible and has a nice little cumin kick with flavors of parsley and such, though I wouldn't go as far as to constitute it as that spicy. I wish they had used the large shrimps and not the small baby shrimps (which probably came from Costco) but that's being nit picky.

Spiced shrimp sandwich

Perhaps because I had tried my spicy shrimp sandwich first, my friend's Moroccan chicken not only looked but tasted a bit bland but dry to me. There's a layer of spice sauce that's put on the chicken sandwich's bread, just over the mayo, which I think was key for the sandwich. If that hadn't been there, the chicken breast pieces would have still been flavorful but rather on the dry side for me.

Moroccan chicken sandwich

The lamb chili was visually the most impressive of the three. It looks almost like a sloppy joe but with garbanzo beans, ground lamb and other goodness. I wasn't raised on lamb so the times I've had it I've either found it absolutely delicious or way too gamey in scent and taste for me. I only sampled just a bit of the lamb chili filling from my friend's sandwich and at first it seemed a bit on the gamey side but as I kept chewing the flavors melded together quite harmoniously. I think if I visit here again I'll go for a full lamb chili sandwich next time to try out.

If you're new or completely unfamiliar with lamb though, I wouldn't recommend it lest you end up blowing 5,000 won... ^^;;

Lamb chili sandwich

Casablanca comes down as a mixed bag for me. On the plus side it's a bit of a cheaper option to the surrounding area of Itaewon where options, for the most part, run upwards from around 8~9,000 won, even midday.

On the other hand, perhaps it was all the hype I'd heard and read before but it wasn't somewhere that I was blown away by. The shrimp was good but with baby shrimps as its filling, I think overpriced at 6,000 won. The Moroccan chicken was a bit dry for me... although it may have been an off sandwich (other pictures I've seen previously of the same chicken sandwich was definitely not as dry looking as mine).

Of the three I tried, I would say the best value is the lamb chili sandwich and if you're in the area, it's worth checking out but I wouldn't go as far as to recommend it as somewhere one needs to come out of the way for.

I was actually a bit peckish after an hour or so after eating my chicken sandwich although that may be because of my weird metabolism. But for a water lover like me, points definitely knocked down for charging for water (and in Korea) which seems a bit extreme. Also note, it's cash only at this joint! 

If I visit in the future, I'd like to try out some of the sides though which looked very intriguing!

Ratings: 2.5 out of 4 stars

서울 용산구 용산2동 44-7
4407, Yongsan 2-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Telephone: 02-797-8367

Parking: Unavailable

Alcohol: None available

Tip: Two very important things about Casablanca:
1. Card is NOT ACCEPTED here. It's cash and cash only.
2. Water is unavailable for free here but bottled water is sold for 1,000 won