Alot of kosher restaurants are the same. Maybe not exactly the same, but familiar. Whether it’s the same type of look, feel, smell, or taste, many kosher restaurants are bound to remind you of several other kosher restaurants you’ve been to.
That’s not quite the case with Dar Yemma. The Moroccan spot in midtown Manhattan will probably strike you as a new experience unless you either go out of your way to seek out Moroccan cuisine or grew up with it.
While the decor itself doesn’t clearly indicate the ethnic menu, the staff is dressed in Moroccan attire and the intoxicating olfactory element of the place will greet you at the door.
As for seating, the main dining room is complemented by a smaller space upstairs and a private room on the ground floor. The private room is surrounded by walls of glass wine refrigerators that give it a special look and allows for privacy of sound, but also a line of sight to the rest of the restaurant.
When I was invited to Dar Yemma I took my seat as the staff brought out small bowls of different salads to go with the house bread. While the bread looked like your standard pita, it’s actually a Moroccan version that’s a little crispier on the outside. The red pepper hummus carries a great flavor to try it with.
If you’re looking to enhance your first course, I’d suggest ordering the Mixed Mezza. It’ll add bowls of Hummus (including one is super smooth with whole chickpeas and olive oil), babaganoush, zaalouk (a dip made from roasted eggplant and tomato), and Matbucha. My favorite of these was the matbucha, but keep in mind that it’s a little spicier than the type you’re used to if you buy the store brands. I thought combining the hummus (either one) and the matbucha on top of the bread made for a great texture and fulfilled my obligation to dip bread in something and eat it.
Continuing the trend of ordering samplers to try things, the Darna Combo is a good choice that will provide you with a little bit of a bunch of things. This choice is obviously easier to make if you have a group of four or more, but you could always do it with two people and take home leftovers.
The combo comes as a board featuring Meat Briwat, Moroccan Basteeya, Vegetarian Moroccan Cigars, Stuffed grape Leaves, and Falafel Balls. It also brings you three new dips that go well with different board members.
I liked all the occupants of this platter, even with their very diverse tastes.
The briwat were crunchy and well-spiced, the cigars were an interesting alternative that I could see being a favorite for vegetarian patrons, the grape leaves carried the lamb flavor wonderfully, everybody loves a delicious freshly made falafel ball, and the basteeya (a kind of chicken pastry with powdered sugar and a sweet sauce) was a pleasant surprise that I’d likely never have ordered on its own.
Considering that we’ve already discussed the first two sampler items, we might as well go for the hat trick. The Mix Grill Platter is the crown jewel here. You get four large kebabs (lamb, beef, kefta, and dark meat chicken) with a couple sauces, a pile of grilled vegetables, a bowl of salad, and a large portion of rice.
This is the perfect item to share with a group and you won’t be disappointed.
Be aware that Dar Yemma actually carries five types of kebabs (these four plus white meat chicken) and you should feel free to ask your waiter for any combination of the four or even two of the same type if you’d like. The lamb was the highlight for me, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that both of the chicken kebabs were so juicy that it was hard to tell the difference between them. Marinated in lemon and saffron, they were the best chicken kebabs I’ve ever had.
Maybe you’re looking for something smaller? If so, try the Kefta Tagine. Coming to your table in its own small tagine, this dish has Moroccan spiced meatballs and two poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce. It also comes with a side salad and rice making it a rather large meal for one person. If you put some of the sauce, meatballs, and poached egg on top of the rice and mix it together, what results is something that might remind you of shakshuka, only better. The thick sauce combines with the runny egg, the rice is an amazing vehicle, and the meatballs only add to the greatness.
Last but not least, the Chicken Couscous is probably exactly what you think it is, but that’s probably a good thing. It’s a massive tagine of authentic Moroccan couscous (virtually a powder-like consistency) with boneless dark meat chicken buried at the bottom and topped with an assortment of vegetables. The flavors all get to know each other really well and this thing could feed a family, though you might want some extra meat to supplement it. Make sure you’ve got somebody to share this thing with.
So if you want to try something a little bit different, try Dar Yemma. The servers can certainly help you pick stuff you’ll like and there’s a wide spectrum between familiar and less familiar foods.
Go familiarize yourself.