Review: Morococo Cafe (모로코코 카페)

In Itaewon proper, restaurants have come and gone for decades. One, however, has remained open and strong in business since almost as long as I've been in Seoul- Casablanca.

On paper, the success of Casablanca is nearly bewildering in Korea. Not only did it open in the high turnover neighborhood of Haebangchon but it did so based on the Moroccan owner's beloved home cuisine. In a land where even the slightest hints of non-Korean spices such as cilantro can perturb the locals so much, who would have ever thought that Moroccan cuisine, of all cuisine, would succeed so well? Nevertheless, Casablanca's focus on inexpensive yet hearty sandwiches resonated not only with the expat community but it soon caught on to the local Koreans as well. Visit Casablanca on any day of the week now and you'll find a good mixture of both expats, solo diners, locals, and big groups enjoying good food over inexpensive prices (especially in relativity to the Itaewon area.

Over those many years of operation, Casablanca has now "expanded" to an off shoot restaurant directly across the street. Morococo Cafe focuses on other non-Sandwichery Moroccan dishes complete with a charming interior and friendly staff to definitely bring about a warm oasis of sorts.

The menu has a great variety of main dishes that you'll be hard pressed to find anywhere else on the Korean peninsula.

Located on the main HBC strip, it would be easy to pass Morococo Cafe with its unassuming facade but that would be a big mistake. Inside, the cozy space can seat about 20 with space available for seating on its patio (in warmer seasons). Warm sandy walls and patterned lights gives it quite an exotic vibe setting the mood for a little gastronomic trip.

This was one of the earlier versions of their menu, written in chalk on the wall for all, and they'd added an item or two since then but the gist goes like this.

As you can see, it's an extremely reasonable price list and even more so when you consider it's located smack in the middle of HBC where you're easily set back 12-15K for a sandwich/burger.

The joy of going with a group is that you get to order more food to try! In which case, we simply got all the main food items.

And voila, what a nice, colorful spread. They say a good meal begins with the eyes and this is as good a visual start to a culinary experience as any I say. And all of this is further buoyed by the fact that the spices and aroma wafting through each dish just beckons you to dig in (if only you can put down your damn camera and phone from all your picture taking).

Coming piping hot, the preserve lemon chicken has a range of flavors that works beautifully. A bit of tartness from the preserved lemon, savory from the olives, and a nice balance of spices. I was initially afraid the sauce would be too rich but nope, just a wonderful complement to the moist chicken. The side of bread will come in handy to sop up that sauce at the end which has, by then, been infused with the herby chicken as well. 

The chermaula carrot salad is gorgeous on looks and taste. The naturally glazed carrots and caramelized plums brings a natural sweetness which comes together wonderfully with the crumbled cheese, toasted peanuts. What a refreshingly, healthy salad. I'm surprised this sort of roasted vegetables with nuts and dried fruit types of salad hasn't caught on more more with all the salad craze that's been going on in recent years. A bit of sweet and savory and none of the guilt.

Nice, fluffy seasoned rice. The various sauces from the main dishes works well with either the bread or rice.

Lamb tagine also comes bubbling from its cooking. Six handmade lamb "meatballs" surround a freshly cracked egg and swimming in the tomato sauce and cheese. I've always enjoyed the shakshuka at Casablanca and this is like a meatbally version of it. And, again, just try keeping yourself from sopping up all that rich sauce with the bread afterwards!

The lamb meatballs have a tinge of lamb scent but nothing overpowering and just the right balance of spices and seasoning. Maybe I'd be committing some major culinary faux pas but I would love to enjoy this dish in between a nice french bread loaf as a sub.

The restaurant also has a spectacular item called "Morocco Over Rice". Pick your protein (shrimp, lamb, etc...and even a vegan option) and out comes this beautiful concoction of spiced rice, salad, protein and sauce.

Like a much, healthier, fresh version of the Halal Guys platters. It's pure deliciousness that'll fill you up but without the guilt and belt unbuckling afterwards.

I was recommended the lamb which comes out nicely seasoned and spiced.

The fresh and seasoned tomato, onion mixture as well as the pickles adds a nice contrast to the carbs, protein, and sauce.

Final thoughts:
The owners behind Casablanca has done it again extending their unofficial role as "ambassadors" of Moroccan cuisine to Korea with even more delicious menu items. Flavorful yet balanced, filling yet not overly so, this is certainly one of the best value, authentically international cuisine one can find in all of Seoul. With friendly service and appealing interior, Morococo Cafe makes for a great place for a date or casual meal with friends all without breaking your wallet with its extremely reasonable prices.

서울특별시 용산구 신흥로 34
34, Sinheung-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea

Located on the main Haebangchon strip. To get to here, exit Noksapyeong Station's exit 2, walk straight for about 300m, hugging the Yongsan military garrison border, until you see the traditional pots on the left on Sinheung-ro 2-gil. Walk another 300 meters or so on it and you'll see Morococo Cafe on your right, just across Casablanca.




Wine and beer available. The glasses of wine are a steal at 5K a glass.

Closed on Mondays.