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ayana

best Middle Eastern restaurants in LA

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I'm Israeli and a foodie - enough said, right?

Probably my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in LA, especially for the money, is Carnival in Sherman Oaks.

4356 Woodman Ave (North of Ventura Blvd)

Sherman Oaks, CA 91423-3031

(818) 784-3469

This is a Lebanese place and is totally mobbed by a nice, healthy, politically inspiring mixture of Arabs, Armenians & Israelis at all times. But it's pretty large and you don't usually have to wait for very long, although the service (as in most Middle Eastern places) is pretty bad. You get used to it though. And it's cheap, especially if you go with a group and share stuff.

Here's what to get: The lamb and beef kabobs - they come with delicious fries and Middle Eastern salad, although this salad inexplicably has lettuce in it, making it necessary to order fattoush - which is delicious Arabic salad with sumac and toasted pita bread croutons. The standard mezze platter is excellent, with great hummus, great tabouli. The grilled vegetable platter is great. The Tuesday special is lamb shank - delicious. The Wednesday special is baked kefta in tomato sauce - also great. The kubbe - bulgur fried dumplings stuffed with meat and pine nuts - is to die for, both with the yogurt or tehine that comes with it (but ask for chopped parsley to put in your tehine). The hummus with meat is real good too, as is the shwarma. And the grape leaves are great.

I've tried the labne - not so good here, and the specials on Monday (maluchia) and Friday (stuffed chicken) aren't very good. Don't remember the Thursday special.

Carousel Restaurant

304 N Brand Blvd

Glendale, CA 91203

(818) 246-7775

and

5112 Hollywood Blvd around Normandie. 323-660-8060.

I've only been to the Hollywood location, which is in a strip mall in the middle of Thai town. Absolutely delicious Lebanese-Armenian food. I had lamb kabobs with yogurt sauce, which were great. Also had terrific fattoush and some great mezze, like a warm vegetarian moussaka. This was however a bit pricey, and they don't have a good cheap mezze platter - I think it's something like $25 per person with a 2-person minimum. No fair, especially since the mezze looked really great. This is also in a strip mall with zero atmosphere, but I don't really care when it comes to Middle Eastern food.

Magic Carpet

8566 W Pico Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90035-2410

(310) 652-8507

Mmmmmm... Yemeni-Israeli food just like my grandmother used to make. The things to avoid here are the meat entree dishes. They aren't so great (you can get much better kabobs at Carnival, Carousel or Marouch) and come with soggy overcooked vegetables. But it is very easy to get stuffed here on the SOUPS (esp the white bean, the Yemeni beef, the lentil) which are huge and delicious, the MEZZE (the combo platter comes with about 10 of them, probably half of which are eggplant - all delicious), the Iraqi Sandwich (Fried eggplant, tehine, long-cooked hard-boiled egg, and tomato - HEAVEN), the Salufa (Yemeni fried bread, similar to Naan - usually they only have it on the weekends, but you should order yours ahead - the Iraqi Sandwich on Salufa is great), the Israeli Salad (don't let them pad yours with filler lettuce!) and the Mellawach with toppings (yet another kind of Yemeni fried bread, greasier than Salufa).

YUM. Also they have pickled beets which I LOVE. And their breakfasts are great, if you like Israeli breakfasts - ie shakshuka (eggs with peppers & tomatoes), ful medames, Israeli salad, etc. They also have hilbeh, which is a sauce made of fenugreek that you are supposed to eat with bread. It is supposedly responsible for the extremely low rate of heart disease among Yemenis, because it lowers cholesterol. However, I think it's disgusting, despite the multiple attempts by my father to make me like it.

Please note the restaurant is glatt kosher, which means lots of Orthodox Jews with huge families, and it's closed Friday afternoon and Saturday all day & night... exactly when I always feel like going there.

Marouch Restaurant

4905 Santa Monica Blvd (btwn Normandie & Vermont), Tu-Su 11-11. 323-662-9325.

Another really good Lebanese-Armenian, less pricey than Carousel, but slightly less good as well. I've been here about 3 times and all 3 times, our party was the only occupied table in there. But they had really good food, especially the meat-yogurt dishes and the makanek sausages.

Amir's Falafel

11711 Ventura Blvd

Studio City, CA 91604-2616

(818) 509-8641

and

on Ventura Blvd. around White Oak Blvd. in Encino

This is by far the best falafel in LA as far as I'm concerned. Small falafel, crispy on the outside, melting-in-your-mouth soft on the inside and bright green with parsley. And they have terrific salads to put inside your pita with the falafel - try the Moroccan carrot salad, any of the various eggplant salads, or the Turkish salad. Really great and cheap, although the attitude of the people behind the counter could be improved upon. I don't understand people who like the dry-as-a-bone, gigantic crusty falafel at Falafel King or Eat a Pita. Yuck.

Pita Kitchen

14500 Ventura Blvd (at Beverly Glen)

Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

(818) 990-7006

This little hole-in-the-wall is owned by an Israeli Arab guy whose brother used to go to school with my dad, and so I always get extra treats here. Hurray for Middle Eastern hospitality. He says he liked the location because it has a low ceiling, not much space, and basically feels like a typical dive in the Old City in Jerusalem, and it's true. Tons of Israelis eat here. The things to get are shwarma, hummus, labne-vegetable sandwiches, and various kabob sandwiches. They make Iraqi pitas (the giant kind, also called lafas) but they're not that great. Pretty good and cheap, but not worth driving across town for.

Cafe du Liban

19223 Ventura Blvd

Tarzana, CA 91356-3122

(818) 705-3194

The thing I get here is the LABNE SANDWICH in an Iraqi pita with zaatar, pitted kalamata olives, olive oil and Arabic salad. Yum! Haven't really tried the other items on the menu, I just love labne.

Sham Restaurant

716 Santa Monica Blvd (7th), Santa Monica. 310-393-2913.

This place really does have an unfortunate name, though Sham in Hebrew (and I assume in Arabic too) means "over there." I've only been here once so far - I suspect that will change since I've just moved to the area. And I remember it was quite good, and that unfortunately is all I remember.

Moishe's

In the Farmer's Market, 3rd/Fairfax

Quite good pita-kabob stand with good salads & fries too, though I haven't tried the falafel - too scared of disappointment.

Tarzana Armenian Deli

18598 Ventura, 2 blks W of Reseda, Tarzana, 818-881-6278, M-Sa 9-8, Su 11-5. Also at 22941 Ventura in Woodland Hills, 818-225-1854.

Their red tabbouleh and their eggplant-tomato salad are SOOOO good. I'm not a huge fan of lavosh sandwiches but other people seem to like them.

Baklava Factory

17145 Ventura Blvd btwn White Oak and Balboa, Encino

Also a location in Glendale, I believe.

Armenian bakery with by far the best baklava and the best selection in town. Personally I'm not a giant fan of what Americans tend to think of as baklava, ie the regular phyllo super-sweet stuff with pistachios or walnuts. But they also have tons of noodle-based pastries, like the burma (stuffed with pistachios) that are my favorite, as well as knafe b'jibin (warm cheese pastry with an orange topping), maamoul (date cookies), and basbousa (semolina cake, sometimes known as nammoura) - although of course these all have different names in Armenian. And they have espresso. AND they ship across the country!

Shahrezad

1422 Westwood N of Ohio, 310-470-9131, Su-Th 11:30-11, F 11:30-mid., Sa 11:30-3pm.

I'm not Persian, but there sure are a lot of Persians in this place, and it really is delicious. Everything I tried has been good - all the stews, the kebobs, the great fresh Iranian flat bread (freshly flame-broiled in the restaurant). Mmmmm.

So, any more ideas? Especially from the Armenians, the Persians, the Lebanese, the various other Middle Eastern countries represented around LA?

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For Lebanese, try Skaf's Grill. It's a family run place in a strip mall on the corner of Laurel Canyon and Oxnard (North Hollywood). Besides the basic staples, like chicken and beef kebabs, foul, etc., there are always daily specials, including, but not limited to: stuffed eggplant (Tuesday), kafta (Wednesday), and lemon chicken (Friday). The restaurant also sometimes offers lamb, stuffed cabbage, lima been and beef stew, green bean and beef stew, and stuffed squash. All meals come with a salad, pita and hummus.

Skaf's Grill

6008 Laurel Canyon Blvd.

North Hollywood

(818) 985 5701

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great list. lots to try. i really like carousel; sometime i want to go when there's music (there's always a bandstand full of instruments, but i'm afraid i get there too early).

i'd add the various sunin restaurants, but particularly the newly opened one in long beach on second street. really good stuff.

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I'm very lucky to have been introduced to Armenian food by close Hyem friends who know good food. Sassoun Bakery on Santa Monica near Normandie has fantastic lahmejun, and Falafel Arax almost across the street is cheap and delicious.

But Sahag's Basturma on Sunset is what I craved when I was recently traveling in Asia and having all kinds of great food. I'm no expert, but to me these are THE benchmarks for soujouk and basturma. The kebineh (beef tartare with bulgur) completes the meatfest. Sahag sold the business, but the couple that took over has kept almost everything the same. Sahag, wherever you are, bless you. Highly recommended.

At Carnival, I particularly like the babaghanoush, which has a little smokiness to it, but overall I think that some of the others you mentioned are better.

At Sham in Santa Monica, the lamb shawarma lunch special is solid. The chicken shawarma/tarna is also good, but seems a bit fatty for some reason.

Baklava Factory is brilliant.

And at the ubiquitous Zankou chicken, I don't think I've had the chicken once I tried the shawarma there (even though it's beef and not lamb).

~Tad

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I'm very lucky to have been introduced to Armenian food by close Hyem friends who know good food.  Sassoun Bakery on Santa Monica near Normandie has fantastic lahmejun, and Falafel Arax almost across the street is cheap and delicious.

But Sahag's Basturma on Sunset is what I craved when I was recently traveling in Asia and having all kinds of great food.  I'm no expert, but to me these are THE benchmarks for soujouk and basturma.  The kebineh (beef tartare with bulgur) completes the meatfest.  Sahag sold the business, but the couple that took over has kept almost everything the same.  Sahag, wherever you are, bless you.  Highly recommended. 

At Carnival, I particularly like the babaghanoush, which has a little smokiness to it, but overall I think that some of the others you mentioned are better.

At Sham in Santa Monica, the lamb shawarma lunch special is solid.  The chicken shawarma/tarna is also good, but seems a bit fatty for some reason.

Baklava Factory is brilliant.

And at the ubiquitous Zankou chicken, I don't think I've had the chicken once I tried the shawarma there (even though it's beef and not lamb). 

~Tad

mmmmm. i've been hearing about Sahag's Basturma for a while. Seems like it warrants a special trip.

Anyone been to Aladin in the Valley, or to Wahib's in Alhambra? And I know there must be some good OC places since most of the SoCal Palestinians live there... but I'm not familiar with anything.

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[...]

And I know there must be some good OC places since most of the SoCal Palestinians live there... but I'm not familiar with anything.

Yes there are. My favorite is Caspian in Irvine (Persian food):

http://www.caspianrestaurant.com/home.html

Caspian Restaurant

Address: 14100 Culver Dr, Irvine, CA 92604

Phone: (949) 651-8454


W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"

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