The delectable karma of Darna

For authentic Moroccan dining, Darna is a delight.

Darna (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Walking into Darna in Central Jerusalem, you would be forgiven for thinking you traveled back in time to an elegant bygone era, in Morocco itself. A veritable symphony of the senses, one is immediately struck both by the aesthetic beauty and disparate aromatic fragrances emanating from within the cavernous glatt kosher eatery.
Decorated with soothing yellow and coral-painted pastel walls, colorful stained-glass windows, large, intricately adorned ceramic plates, silver vessels, and enormous archways from high ceilings separating numerous different rooms, Darna provides an uncommonly beautiful and relaxing ambience.
Upon being seated by a friendly maitrd’e, my date and I were greeted by a lovely waitress named Gloria, adorned in traditional Moroccan garb.
We started by asking Gloria if she would recommend a wine from the restaurant’s extensive list. However, instead of reviewing the wine list with us, she invited Darna’s wine steward to escort us along an ornately decorated hallway, down a dozen wooden steps, past a heavy iron door, into to a breathtaking wine cellar.
Inside were shelves laden with the finest boutique wines from the best kosher wineries in Israel, with more than 5,000 bottles to choose from.
Darna’s impressive wine selection comes from numerous vintners, including Barkan, Carmel Mizrahi, Goshen, Dalton and Yarden.
After settling on a perfect 2010 Carden’s Katzrin Cabernet Sauvignon, we returned to our table, where Gloria was waiting to take out order.
For our first course, we ordered a selection of fine salads (NIS 43), which included eggplant caviar; carrots with cumin; beet greens with lemon; spicy green olives with red bell peppers; cucumber with orange blossom water; spicy matbucha; fennel salad; and potatoes with parsley and vinegar.
Gloria also strongly recommended we try one of Darna’s signature dishes, Pastilla Fassia (NIS 43) – a phyllo pastry, stuffed with Cornish hen and almonds, and decorated with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
The salad dishes were all satisfying, with no real standouts. However, the Pastilla Fassia stole the show, being among the most delicious dishes either of us had had in a long time.
For our second course, we ordered the Couscous Marrakshi (NIS 95), which came with chicken, pumpkin, peppers, onion, carrots, zucchini, turnip and cabbage. The couscous was filling and tasty, with the pumpkin adding a nice touch, but it came in a large portion which we only ate half of it, lest we filled our stomachs before the main course.
For that, Gloria strongly recommended the Tangia Marrakshia (NIS 135) – lamb shanks cooked slowly with lemon, onion and cumin. It was as delicious and tender a lamb as I have ever had, with just the right portion to complement our preceding dishes.
Finally, after Gloria poured us two delicious cups of green mint tea (NIS 10) with a flourish, from several feet above our glasses, we ordered the M’hancha for dessert – a delicate, flat pastry, stuffed with marzipan, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon (NIS 43). The thin and light pastry was the perfect ending for a large, filling meal.
Upon leaving, Darna’s owner, Ilan Sibony, who oversaw the restaurant the entire night, stopped by to ask us how our meal and experience was.
When we told him we had an excellent evening, he explained that the name Darna is derived from the blessing of Darma Darcum, which means “our home is your home.”
As Sibony clearly takes pride in, if you are looking for an upscale Moroccan dining experience, Darna lives up to its name.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant Glatt kosher 3 Horkanos Street, Jerusalem Phone: (02)624-5406 Sun - Thu: 12:00-15:00, 18:30-24:00 Sat: From end of Shabbat