The Sad Fall of Dar Maghreb

Once upon a time in West Hollywood, long before Lucques and Mozza, there was the most exotic, exciting dining experience in Los Angeles — at least for a kid with wanderlust and an adventurous palate. The Moroccan palace of Dar Maghreb.

The courtyard at Dar Maghreb

I had the good fortune, growing up, that my father was best pals with the owner and driving creative force behind Dar Maghreb. Pierre Dupar was a corpulent caricature of a French chef in the best and worst ways. When it came to food and wine, he could be generous, funny and full of heart, sharing a vintage year Mouton Rothschild with a 20-something kid with an interest in wine like me, or inviting my father on tours of the Michelin 3-star restaurants of France — and printing up business cards for him that said he was a food critic with a non-existent Los Angeles food publication. And he could be heartless, ordering his workers about like they were pack animals, making unreasonable demands of his young hispanic wife like she was his maid (which she was before he married her), belittling his children in front of others. The restaurant was his great love — he even designed the architecture himself, and welcomed guests in his flowing robe like a proud papa.

And Dar Maghreb was among the proudest buildings in the city. From the outside, a gorgeous stucco square with desert palms and nothing to let you know what it was but a bold swatch of silver Arabic on the wall. Pass through the gilded silver doors, and you were a world away from the seedy buzz of Sunset Boulevard just outside. A fountain bubbled peacefully in the middle of an interior courtyard. In high-ceilinged rooms to the right and left came jovial conversation, the scent of roasted meats and cinnamon, and the sound of finger cymbals being clanged by busty belly dancers. And Monsieur Dupar, always Monsieur Dupar, with a hearty welcome and shake of his fat hand.

Fast forward a couple decades, and we decide to take my son, Flynn, to Dar Maghreb for his 7th birthday. We invited my father. Monsieur Dupar is now at the Great Table in the Sky, ordering celestial servants around. He had a massive coronary on an airplane between Bordeaux and Amsterdam. Minus his robed presence inside those sparkling silver doors, Dar Maghreb feels sad and forlorn. The seven-course meal and belly dancing has become a cliché, the Arabic writing on the building now sits astride the English translation, “Dar Maghreb,” as if the restaurant either felt neglected and needed to remind people it was here, or maybe they wanted to prevent vandalism from people who mistook the building for a mosque. How the times have changed. The waiters are now Chinese. And what used to be a bustling, thrilling restaurant was now almost empty on a Thursday night even as Hollywood pulsed frenetically outside. I almost expected to hear the requisite crickets on cue.

The sugary savory bastilla, the fragrant carrot and eggplant salad scooped up with sesame bread, the roast chicken with lemon and olive to the final sip of mint tea all still taste just as good, if tinged with a melancholy aftertaste at the gaping absence of Pierre Dupar. And the kids loved the entire experience. But my dad looked a little sad, and I couldn’t help but have the feeling you get when you see a performer 30 years beyond their prime, still belting out their one hit song to no one in particular in a lounge at an airport Holiday Inn.

Dr. Colgin at Dar Maghreb

The last time I was at Dar Maghreb was five or six years before, for Pierre Dupar’s memorial. It was sad to say goodbye to Pierre and to know we would never again see him welcoming us into that courtyard. Maybe we’ll go back to Dar Maghreb again, or maybe we won’t. This felt a bit like a goodbye, too.

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jules
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 01:32:43

    dar maghreb is one block from my house. i ate there many years ago before i lived in this neighborhood, but have very little recollection of it beyond the belly dancers. sigh. next time i’m ready to take on 7 courses i’ll have to give it a try!

    Reply

  2. Lisa Gaskin
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 05:20:44

    oh…that Bastilla! I was last there on my birthday 21 years ago! I can’t believe it is still there.

    Reply

  3. Greggie
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 17:05:10

    It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Dar Maghreb. I think the last time was for a friend’s birthday. It was a great place for a group to gather for celebrations. The place and food reminded me of that scene from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” with Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart. It can be sad to return somewhere after many years. Our mind plays tricks because we romanticized the old experience and the new reality is a disappointment. Sometimes it is better just to leave the memory intact.

    Reply

  4. Andrea Thompson
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 23:04:55

    I had a very romantic dinner there once. Didn’t you sit on really soft couches and eat with your hands? I wonder who I was with…..

    Reply

  5. glennis
    Nov 15, 2010 @ 04:52:31

    We drove past there just yesterday and noticed the building and the sign, and wondered…”What is that?”

    Reply

  6. Sandra kilidjian
    Apr 05, 2014 @ 16:45:28

    I believe it has been closed for a couple of yrs now. Sigh……..so sad

    Reply

  7. Terence
    Aug 26, 2014 @ 14:19:23

    Dar Maghreb was our special place in the late 70s to early 80s. We’d treat each other for birthdays or whenever one of us helped the other move. Margie learned how to make b’stilla just like theirs. Sad to think it’s gone now. Always struck us as funny that the cuisine was Moroccan, the cooks were Mexican, the waiters Chinese and the belly dancers Caucasian.

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Aug 26, 2014 @ 21:16:49

      LOL, that is so funny. I was always struck by the same thing. And add to that the corpulent French owner!!

      Reply

      • Terence
        Sep 02, 2014 @ 23:04:39

        Until I found your Dar Maghreb history I had no idea. I shall have to add the French owner into the mix. I think we used to imagine that such an admixture of nationalities was peculiar to LA, but I suppose it’s what the US as a whole is all about. Have you any suggestions for good Moroccan cuisine around town?

      • scolgin
        Sep 02, 2014 @ 23:08:00

        Especially true in L.A. and New York, but yes, in some ways a good analogy to our country as a whole. I’ve heard that Marrakech is pretty good, but I’ve never been there. I don’t think you’ll find an equal to the overall experience of Dar Maghreb.

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