Name: Darna Mediterranean Cuisine. "Darna" means "our home" in Moroccan.
Concept: Kosher Moroccan and Israeli cuisine in a casual setting. This is a family-run restaurant helmed by chef Aviva Ben David, who prepares her family's recipes. Ben David was born in Israel to parents of Moroccan descent.
Where you are: The Valley; specifically Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills. The restaurant shares strip-mall space with a hookah café, travel agency, and a nail salon.
Why it's so busy on Friday afternoons: A lot of observant Jews pick up takeout orders for Shabbat dinner.
Why you should really come on a Wednesday: Ben David's homey and authentic kubbeh soup is a dish you rarely find on restaurant menus, and Darna only serves it on Wednesdays. As compared to the more ubiquitous fried kubbeh (ground beef dumplings wrapped in bulgar), the kubbeh at Darna are also filled with seasoned ground beef, but the dough is made of semolina instead of bulgur, and the dumplings are boiled in soup, creating a denser, doughy consistency. The broth has many variations across the Middle East, but Ben David makes two kinds at Darna: okra and beet. Both have an underlying sourness, but the okra is very tomato forward, while the beet is sweeter. The portions are large and come with a side of rice (to add to the soup, or not).
Why this soup is so hard to find: For one, it's labor intensive. Between cooking the filling, shaping the dumplings and preparing the broth, making kubbeh soup is a two- to three-hour process. Also, food writer Adeena Sussman, who splits her time between the U.S. and Israel, has another theory. "It's not a light and fluffy matzoh ball, which I would say [American] Jews are more acclimated to and more used to," said Sussman. "It's delicious, but it's a little heavy for an American palate." Sussman thinks that could very well change, though, with modern Israeli food becoming a trend of late.
What else you're eating: The hummus shawarma, which layers warm smoky chicken shawarma over a plate of lemony hummus and tahini; Israeli salads, especially the babaganouj (smoky eggplant dip) and matbucha (a roasted tomato and jalapeno dip); and the spicy Moroccan merguez sausage—served with your choice of sides, one of which has to be the cumin-tinged rice with lentils and fried onions.
What you're drinking: Malt Star (non-alcoholic) Israeli dark beer; Prigat fruit drinks; Turkish coffee or Nescafe.
Info: 19737 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 914-4188, www.darnala.com.