The Random Restaurant Tour — XLV

Toraya Moroccan Cuisine, located at 72 East Lynn Street less than a block from the Ohio Statehouse, is a new establishment that holds itself out as the first authentic Moroccan restaurant, serving halal food, in downtown Columbus. Dr. Science and I are always on the lookout for new ethnic food options, so yesterday we rambled over on a cool fall day to give Toraya a try for lunch.

In addition to the Moroccan cuisine, a few things about Toraya are very distinctive. First, it’s a white tablecloth set-up, which you don’t see that often in a lunch spot. Second, rather than a menu, you get handed a business card with a QR code so you can call up the menu on your cellphone, so don’t forget to bring yours. And third, the menu, which you can see here, offers food at a wide spectrum of price points–ranging from tagine dishes for less than $10, to sandwiches for under $15, to tagine dishes between $20 and $25. Dr. Science and I, appetites stimulated by the fine fall weather and a spirited discussion of just how cool NASA’s DART mission was, decided to go for something on the high end of the price scale.

I opted for the meatballs tagine–because who wouldn’t want meatballs for lunch?–and Dr. Science chose the chicken tagine. A tagine is a pyramid-like clay pot with a vent on top, as shown above, that is used in cooking the dish. Our meal started with a piping hot pot of honey-sweetened tea, which you pour into small glasses, Moroccan-style. And when our orders came, we learned that Toraya doesn’t scrimp on the food. I got a hefty portion of meatballs, very attractively presented in a colorful tagine, a bowl of saffron rice, and a basket of pita bread, as well as a piece of candy. Dr. Science’s portion was equally large. We agreed that you could easily share these dishes, or take some home to reheat for dinner, but since we were both famished we laid into our food with gusto and finished it all, except for the mound of pita bread.

My meatballs were great, and not overcooked as is often the case with meatballs. They came in a red sauce that had a very good flavor that paired well with the saffron rice. I first ate them by forking a meatball, some sauce, and some rice onto one of the quarters of pita bread to create a de facto sandwich, which was a tasty, messy, and fun way to eat the food. Dr. Science sampled some of the meatballs, and I tried a wedge of his chicken tagine dish, which was tender and mildly seasoned and also tasted good on the pita. After a while, I decided to ditch the pita so as not to fill myself up and just went straight for the meatball and rice combo, and that was a satisfying culinary experience, too.

When we finished, Dr. Science and I agreed that we would definitely come back to Toraya. We hope we’ll have the chance to do so, because the 72 East Lynn location is a bit of a revolving door for restaurants; we’d tried the predecessor in that spot, called Aroma, only a year ago, and now it is gone and Toraya has taken its place. We’re hoping that Toraya succeeds where others have failed, because it’s nice to have a little Moroccan flavor in downtown Columbus.

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