Just missing the story tellers, local souk and snake charmers, I walked into mystical Morocco when I entered Darna (600 Columbus Ave – North East corner of 89th; New York 10024; Telephone: 212.721.9193), right here in New York City, in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Magically transported to the heart of Fez, Rabat, Marrakech or perhaps Casablanca and Rick’s Café Américain… I expected to hear the echo of Ilsa’s voice asking Sam: “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’”
I arrived at Darna as they began dinner service. Carlos tastefully arranged a corner table for me while Katja navigated me through the extensive menu of surprisingly well priced fare.
I started with a Humus plate, which came with a zaatar (hyssop) pita and mixed greens.
Deliciously flavorful, it was followed by Moroccan Cigars with accompanying greens and tomato flower garnish atop a Tehina Sauce.
The meat filled cigars were crispy on the outside, tender and savory on the inside; a perfect blend of flavors.
Darna’s Stuffed Chicken was the main course, a whole roasted Cornish hen stuffed with prunes, apricots, raisins, mushrooms and almonds with a side of Couscous (their signature dish!) topped with string beans and carrots.
The stuffed hen was tender and superb in taste; the side dish delicious! The meal was accompanied by a delightful 2007 Barkan Pinot Noir.
Darna means “our home” in Moroccan Arabic. The time went by too quickly; the homey food, the polite and friendly staff, the cozy beautifully appointed authentic Moroccan décor, the soft Moroccan music certainly made me feel like a valued guest at the home of some trusted old friends…truly a hidden precious jewel in Manhattan!
To borrow a line from the movie Casablanca, “Luis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” I’ll be back!