Moroccan restaurant opens Downtown

Toraya Moroccan Cuisine has been open for just over a week and big changes are already planned.

Mohssine “Ben” Benjorfi, who co-owns the Downtown restaurant with Adil Chahidi, said he plans to drop the breakfast menu and expand it into dinner hours, with more menu offerings.

“We have a lot of dishes,” Benjorfi said.

The only problem is narrowing them down to fit the current tariff.

Meat tagine is served at Toraya Moroccan Cuisine.

Toraya, named for Benjorfi’s mother, is located at 72 E. Lynn St., a street that is home to a handful of other restaurants.

Benjorfi and Chahidi placed a lot of trust in Lamia Nasser, a classically trained chef whose restaurant experience took her to France and Luxembourg, where she taught cooking classes.

Nasser said she is well trained in her native Moroccan cuisine and even cooked for the country’s King Mohammed VI.

“I’ve had a great career,” she said, adding that she moved to Columbus to be near family.

Adil Chahidi, co-owner of Toraya Moroccan Cuisine, serves food at the new Downtown Columbus restaurant.

Benjorfi said Toraya also offers Algerian-style food similar to Moroccan. All meats are halal and alcohol is not served in the restaurant.

The food of the North African country is also featured in restaurants such as Couscous House, Tajine House and Taste of Moroccan & Greek Street Food.

At Toraya, Benjorfi said, the fare is handcrafted using premium flavors and proprietary spice blends.

“When you taste it, I can’t describe what happens,” he said.

The menu includes dishes such as kefta (meatballs in sauce), quarter chicken, a layered meat dish and sweet and salty chicken pastilla (a thin dough with a filling of chicken, almonds and honey).

Co-owner Adil Chahidi makes chicken pastillas at Toraya Moroccan Cuisine in downtown Columbus.

Entrees are served with salad, saffron basmati rice or French fries. The royal couscous is only served on Fridays according to the country’s tradition, Benjorfi said.

The dishes are served with rustic homemade bread made from semolina and flour, which is crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside.

“A little butter, honey—it’s delicious,” Nasser said.

Kofta and chicken sandwiches are also available.

Some breakfast items will be available for now upon request, Benjorfi said.

Toraya Moroccan cuisine includes several tagine dishes, including meatballs.

The prices, many of them over $20, may give some customers sticker shock. A meatball tagine, for example, is $20.99. Benjorfi said that with bread and sides, most meals are enough for two people.

Special orders are accepted, he said, provided customers give the restaurant a day’s notice, especially for large catering orders. The room is also available for private events.

Toraya has a simple layout, a red-on-black color scheme and a wooden floor.

“I’ve always wanted to get people to try Moroccan food,” Chahidi said. “This is very good food, very old food, our culture. If you want to do it, you do it right.

Toraya Moroccan Cuisine has opened on Lynn Street in downtown Columbus.

Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 614-929-5400.

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