Total Bill: $120 for three

Who would have thought that right outside the midtown tunnel, under a modest red awning, a quaint little space transforms into an exotically vibrant Moroccan bistro with bold sangria and bellydancers upon nightfall.

Casaville sits inconspicuously between a couple other eateries on a pretty random block along 2nd Avenue between 34th and 35th streets. But once you step inside, it’s an instant switch into another world — one filled with plush decor, crisp clinging of cymbals, fruit-filled sangria, and of course fragrant platters of paella.

Cec was in town for a night before flying home for Thanksgiving, so we took a quick trip down the block for dinner before a night out. Little did we know that the night would start as soon as we sat down.

A single carafe of sangria is pretty much enough to cover two guys and a gal (who can barely handle more than a glass). But we had two, since the paella made to order would take about half an hour. While it was sweet, the generous chunks of apples and oranges tamed it a bit, and the wine itself was pretty hardy.

Along with the sangria, Cec and Jay each had a steaming bowl of lobster bisque to hold them over. Maybe a little on the salty side, but they were liberal with the portions, and the creamy soup is definitely nice on a chilly fall night.

As promised, in 30 minutes, our boiling cast iron pan of paella emerged from the kitchen, packed with a lovely variety of things mixed in with the bubbling rice — mussels, clams, chicken, pork (for the spicy chorizo), shrimp, squid, bell peppers, peas, and I’m sure more that I’m forgetting. The flavors are bold and radiant through to the very last bite, if you can even manage to finish it.

And while you’re taking in all the food and wine, you can lounge around and enjoy the mix of the latest hip hop and Moroccan tunes playing overhead. And if you go at the right time, you might just have a chance to dance with the bellydancer.


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