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.


29 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!


  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.


  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.


  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…..


  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?”


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

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


  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.


    • 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!!


      • 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.

  8. Jennie
    Jan 12, 2019 @ 17:57:38

    Someone was looking for a new place
    to dine that had great food, ambience,
    energy, and a truly different experience.
    When I googled Dar Maghreb I was
    shocked to see that it had closed:(
    I ate there about 40 years ago and
    I will never forget the truly wonderful
    experience. Sitting on the floor as the waiter
    filled my glass from a standing position!
    The food was excellent … I always thought
    I would make it back. Guess I never will
    now … Quite the experience yes in deed.
    It may have been years ago but it’s one
    of those you keep and tell people about
    when topic is about great places eat 💌


    • scolgin
      Jan 12, 2019 @ 18:07:39

      Thanks for the story, Jennie. It’s fascinating, that post still gets some of the most hits on my blog, and it’s eight years old! I think a lot of people had a similar experience to yours, and miss it. I was fortunate to go to some private dinners and wine tastings there. It will always be a nice memory.


  9. Karina O
    Jan 27, 2019 @ 05:14:51

    This makes me sad. We visited LA really quick on our way to Vegas. There we encountered this place and fell in love with it. We are from NJ so when we returned quickly looked for a Moroccan restaurant around to take our friends to. We found Marrakech on Parsippany so we have it a try. Not the same at all. Today I went back to this restaurant and talking to my family I remembered Dar Maghreb, so I researched about it and found out it closed for good 😢 my friends were able to visit it once again on their honeymoon back in 2005 or so. But I wasnt fortunate enough. It has definitely made it that much harder to find a good place like that. Food was delicious, the service great and the entertainment even better.


  10. Quinntronics
    May 06, 2019 @ 15:59:19

    I too was recently disappointed to hear about Dar Maghreb where I went a handful of times as a student in the late 80’s for special occasions (birthdays, a wedding). When I was trying to recall it I conflated the memory of it with Moun of Tunis, (which I also went to back then and is a perfectly decent restaurant) and so I went there for my birthday recently and couldn’t figure out why it felt disappointingly small and rather dowdy. So I did the google search for DM that I should have done before, only to discover its’ fate. I did not know about Pierre, thank you for sharing some of your stories about him – what a character! Such a unique space and delicious food and I’m saddened that it is now relegated to old memories.


    • scolgin
      May 06, 2019 @ 16:05:23

      I love to hear these stories from people. Although Dar Maghreb was not technically in “my” family, I spent so much time there, and we were part of the extended family via Pierre. It is good to have the memories, and to share them. And I sometimes make some of the dishes they used to serve there (carrot salad, b’stilla, honey lamb), put on some Moroccan music, pour some mint honey tea and toast my father and Pierre sipping a good Bordeaux up in a palace in the stars.


  11. timoirish34
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 00:04:49

    How well I remember how it was. DM was definitely The LA birthday/anniversary destination of note. I also recall how sadly affected your father was by Pierre’s passing. It was as if he’d lost France itself when he lost his friend.


    • scolgin
      Jan 19, 2020 @ 00:43:12

      It’s some sort of fusion Asian tapas/nightclub place now. Quite a loss for our city. Although like I said, it had become kind of sad and passé.


  12. Dylan Hojaverde Pegajosacapullo
    Apr 01, 2020 @ 00:02:15

    I worked at Dar Maghreb for 7 years. This article is right on. Pierre was a monster, a French Yosemite Sam, we used to call him. But he was also a fascinating specimen of a human being who was always exciting to be around.


    • scolgin
      Apr 01, 2020 @ 00:24:00

      Wow, thanks for sharing Dylan. He was definitely an interesting guy. I got a vitriolic reply from one of his sons a few years back telling me what a pathetic human being I was. I thought, “I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”


  13. Rima
    Sep 13, 2021 @ 01:43:04

    I would sell my mother to the gypsies for their recipes. Do you have any clues for me how I could get my hands on them? I would be forever grateful, or at least cook you some b’stilla.


    • scolgin
      Sep 13, 2021 @ 17:46:44

      You and me both, Rima (selling my mother to gypsies, that is. Well, that sounds kinda fun… I might just do it anyway).
      Re: Dar Maghreb’s recipes, I have searched the internet with no luck. If I’d had any foresight, I might’ve gotten them from Pierre. But I guess I didn’t expect him to die suddenly.
      I did figure out the carrot salad myself, since that was one of my favorite things. My attempt at the bread met with mixed results. There are a lot of good recipes out there. The best I’ve been able to do is find decent versions, and recreate the meal as close as I could — the carrot salad and bread, b’stilla, then for example honey lamb with roasted veggie couscous. Good luck!


  14. David Mink
    Nov 09, 2022 @ 17:26:21

    I went there back in the early 70’s shortly after it opened, I think. My wife, who speaks fluent French, and I and my friends, always had a wonderful time. The wait staff loved that my wife spoke to them in French, and it was so exotic sitting on the floor, on cushions, washing your hands from the communal pitcher and eating that amazing food.


    • scolgin
      Nov 09, 2022 @ 17:28:05

      It truly was magical David. And did feel sad to see the way it sort of descended into irrelevancy. I think L.A. could use a restaurant like that right now.


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