In the same strip center as a Conoco gas station, on a block full of car repair shops and import stores, Casablanca hides behind a narrow wall of shiny windows, reflecting southwest Houston's grunge. But step inside, and the bleak atmosphere gives way to cheerful walls of tangerine and lime. This is probably Houston's best-kept Mediterranean secret -- a redoubt of conviviality where well-dressed Moroccans quaff shot glasses of mint tea, speak French around tile-inlaid tables and watch Arab-language television. But, just as important, Casablanca serves as a bastion of cooking good enough to make an Atlas grandma weep. Everything is fresh -- so fresh, in fact, that by late evening the cook often scratches half the dishes off the menu. Try the lamb tagine with saffron sauce ($6.99), in which a rich broth infuses a perfectly roasted lamb shank and an apron of potatoes, peas, black olives and caramelized onions. Other dishes faithfully incorporate traditional green olives, pickled lemon halves, manioc and yams. The moist couscous, infused with meat stock, butter and cumin, is excellent. Try it with a marinated meat or the delightful merguez, the best Moroccan sausage you'll find in the city.