Chef sweats the details at Toraya Moroccan Cuisine

Toraya Moroccan Cuisine has been open a little more than a week and already major changes are planned.

Mohssine “Ben” Benjorfi, who owns the Downtown restaurant, said he plans to jettison the breakfast menu and expand into dinner hours, with more offerings on the menu.

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

The only problem is narrowing them down to fit the current bill of fare.

Toraya, named after Benjorfi’s mother, is at 72 E. Lynn St., an alley that is home to a handful of other restaurants.

Benjorfi has put a lot of faith in Lamia Nacer, a classically trained chef whose restaurant experience took her to France and Luxembourg, where she taught cooking classes.


Nacer, also the manager, said she is well-schooled in her native Moroccan food and even taught cooking classes at the school in the palace.

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

Benjorfi said all meats are halal and alcohol is not served at the restaurant.

The North African country’s food is also represented at restaurants such as Couscous House, Tajine House and Taste of Moroccan & Greek Street Food.

At Toraya, Benjorfi said, the fare is hand-crafted, using premium flavorings and proprietary spice mixes.

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

The menu includes such dishes as kefta (meatballs in gravy), a quarter chicken, a layered meat dish and sweet-and-savory chicken pastilla (thin dough stuffed with chicken, almonds and honey).

Entrees are served with salad, saffron basmati rice or fries. Royal couscous is served on Friday only, per the tradition of the country, Benjorfi said.

Meals are served with rustic house-made bread made from semolina and flour that’s crusty outside and has a pillow-soft inside.

“A little butter, honey – it’s yummy,” Nacer said.

Kofta and chicken sandwiches also are available.

Some breakfast items will be available for the time being upon request, Benjorfi said.

Prices, many of them over $20, might give some customers sticker shock. Meatball tajine, for example, is $20.99. Benjorfi said that with bread and a side, most meals are enough for two people.

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

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

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, call 614-929-5400.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Moroccan restaurant opens Downtown