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Good Taste: Darna Restaurant
December 11, 2006 by Howard Blas
Darna Restaurant 600 Columbus Ave. (corner 89th Street) New York Tel.: (212) 721-9123; http://www.darnanyc.com
Open: Sun.-Thurs.: lunch, 11:30 am-4
pm, dinner, 4 pm-11
pm, Fri.: 11:30 until one hour before Shabbat; dinner with reservations, Sat.: after Shabbat until midnight.
Passing by Darna on a friday night, you might see it filled with diners enjoying a Moroccan-style
Shabbat dinner. Several Fridays a month, the glatt kosher restaurant is open for private parties, serving a fixed-price, prepaid meal at $30 per person, prepared by non-Jews
who are not bound to observe Shabbat.
Darna means “our house” in Moroccan Arabic, and Yehouda Amital, Darna’s Moroccan Israeli owner and chef, has given thought to every detail to create a homey and authentic ambience. At a recent Shabbat evening bat mitzvah party for 40, the menu included all-you-can- drink wine for Kiddush and more; the Darna Salad, composed of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges, cranberries and pecans; and large platters of Moroccan-seasoned
salmon, served with pasta and red potatoes. (On weeknights, this dish costs $19.95; on Fridays add $5 to the fixed $30.) Diners then chose between the sweet-and- spicy chicken, stuffed with dates, almonds and mushrooms ($22.95 weeknights) and the Darna Steak, braised and cooked for seven hours. The accompanying couscous and vegetables were perfectly spiced. Dessert consisted of delicious assorted Moroccan cookies; the baklava was a special hit with our party.
On a subsequent weekday visit, our much smaller party of four especially enjoyed the Darna Combo for two ($13.95) - a wonderfully spiced, crunchy assortment of Moroccan cigars, stuffed grape leaves, kubbeh (a cumin-dominant
meat dish) and Moroccan pastries stuffed with meat and potatoes. The mixed vegetables served over couscous ($14.95) were savory and delightful.
Other Darna specialties include chicken and lamb tajines, stews baked and served in a typical clay dish together with couscous and vegetables ($19.95); harira, a meat soup with chickpeas and lentils ($7.95); as well as less exotic fish and pastas ($19.95). The lunch is less expensive but no less tasty.Howard Blas