Middle Eastern

Every time I drive near Beverly Hills, I always yearn to live in this neighborhood — it is the perfect neighborhood. You imagine having that large house with the gated parking lot. Of course you have a nice Ferrari in the front to go along with your other expensive cars. The best part? You have some of the best restaurants just a stones throw away. For DineLA, we went to Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. To me, it seemed like the best bang for your buck. For $25, you get a 3 course meal, not a 2 course like these other restaurants are doing now. we got to see the garden and the beautiful property that is the Hotel Bel-Air. The food was delicious and the sights were stunning.

Bread Service was good. There was a cream cheese filled focaccia and ciabatta roll. Both were delicious, especially with their salted butter. The bread was quite unexpected and just a nice pre-appetizer snack.

Before our 1st course, we were brought an amuse-bouche of compressed water melon. It was topped with curry salt which accentuated the sweetness of the watermelon.

The roasted Frog Hallow Farms apricots and the mozzarella burrata was delicious together. The natural sweetness of the fruit and briny, saltiness of the cheese was a nice contrast. I especially like the touch of lavender. The crispy pancetta was good, but paper thin. Chunks of the pancetta would have made this dish perfect. It would have went well with the shaved fennel.

The Tamai Farm’s white corn salad was my favorite. It was so light and crunchy — the ingredients were so fresh and stood out on their own. Mixed with sugar snap peas, fava beans, cherry tomatoes, and dressed with tzatziki dressing, this salad was so flavorful. I liked the addition of the feta cheese.

The fresh fettuccine pasta was a nice touch. A mix of chanterelle mushrooms, melted leeks gave it the flavor, but this dish really lacked salt. It’s almost tasted like nothing but pasta and oil. A sprinkle from the salt shaker, which I rarely do did wonders. I kind of wish I had some truffle salt in my pocket. That would have been a perfect addition to this “blank slate.” The amaranth greens though rounded the flavors well.

I had the Sonoma lamb meguez pita. Inside was falafel, baba ganoush, and lamb sausage which I did not really care for much. The falafel though was as quite delicious. It was fluffy and the spices used to make the falafel was quite strong and nice. The side of lebanese salad helped balance the flavors. A douse of harissa spices gave the pita pocket a little kick.

We shared a plate of house made cookie. We had the classic chocolate chip, and a white chocolate caramel. These cookies were addicting and I could have easily ate a whole bunch of them. They were warm with the chocolate melted and not too sweet. They were ever so soft and chewy. All I needed was that glass of milk!

The apricot sorbet was a refreshing dessert. This was the perfect dessert for a hot day. The apricot sorbet was so fresh and subtle. It wasn’t sour or sweet — it had the perfect amount of fruity sweet flavor. The hard French meringue on the bottom was a nice place holder for the quenelles.

We had such an amazing time at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. The last time we were at a Wolfgang Puck establishment was at Spago, also during DineLA. Read why it was such a magical moment then. Somehow, the magic kept going here during lunch. The food was tasty and the restaurant itself sits on such a beautiful piece of property. I’ll probably never be able to stay at this hotel, but I’m glad I got to experience a piece of it.

Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air on Urbanspoon

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Greek food is often times overlooked. Everyone goes for Italian, or the all time classic burger, but Greek is always not given a second chance. On a recent trip to Kentro Greek Kitchen, I was surprised by the look and feel of the restaurant. The ordering system is similar to that of Panera Bread. You order first, get your number, then the food comes out. Despite this fast casual concept, the restaurant is elegant and classy all around. From the food and the staff, everything is top notch. Greek food was never overlooked again.


We started things off with the calamari saganaki. Typically a lover of fried calamari, I didn’t mind this one was not. Bathing in a perfect tomoato sauce, the calamari was succulent and tasty. It was cooked just right — soft as can be. The addition of the sharp tasting feta, it was a perfect match. The bread was hearty and a perfect blank slate for the saganaki. This was perfect to get things going.


The Manouri flatbread was probably my favorite. The flatbread had arugula, figs, oregano, attiki honey, and olive oil. The best part of this flatbread is the imported manouri cheese. Manouri, a by-product following the production of feta is a perfect ingredient for this dish. It was light and the flavors were very subtle and a hint of salty. Paired with the very sweet figs and attiki honey, the sweet and savory balance was perfect.


My go to item at Kentro is the lamb sandwich. It is cheap, and you get a hearty meal out of it. The lamb in the sandwich is soft and flavored heavily. The combination of the sweet peppers and bitter arugula make a nice contrast in flavors. The crusty bread soaks up all the ajus and makes for a nice, easy bite of everything in between. The Kentro fries are pretty spot on as well. Peppery and salty, it is a nice sidekick to the near perfect lamb sandwich.


Kentro in Downtown Fullerton is a great place to have Greek food. It is casual, the price is just right, and the decor inside is quite nice. From flatbreads to sandwiches, to pita wraps, they have it all and all of it tastes great. Whenever I am in Fullerton, Kentro is my go-to place.

Kentro Greek Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Spitz (Little Tokyo) – Topped Fries Make Me Happy

by Franklin on February 6, 2014

It all started with two Occidental College graduates. On a semester abroad in Spain, there were Doner Kabobs everywhere. Doner kebabs are basically minced meat that is cooking on a spit. The meat rotates and caramelizes as it spins on the broiler. Upon graduating, the students opened up their first Spits in Eagle Rock, just a mile away from Oxy. I am more familiar with the Little Tokyo location, and only been to this one. The food is always amazing and the ambiance, artsy as usual.

I always get the street cart doner. Freshly carved lamb Doner meat accompanied by romaine, onions, cucumbers, green pepper, and tomatoes create this tasty wrap. With garlic aioli and fried lavash chips, the sandwich wrap is zesty and delicious. The kicker is the tzatziki and chili sauce. The meat is seasoned perfectly and the veggies and sauce all come into play perfectly.

My most favorite thing here is the street cart fries with the works. First off, the fries are perfectly crusted and crispy. Instead off traditional potato fries, theirs are a Cajun style. Topped with garlic aioli, feta, onion, green pepper, tomato, olives, peperoncini and chili sauce, this be easily be one of my favorite “topped” fries dish in Los Angeles. I opted to add chicken Doner meat, and everything was perfect. Each bite had a little bit of everything — think crane asada fries, except its chicken fresh off the spit and Mediterranean ingredients. I absolutely loved the feta as it gave a nice zest to everything. The veggies were an absolute must to keep this gut buster in check.

Spits is one of those places where you just dream about. Sometimes, the cravings are too strong and you just need your street cart fries and Doner fix. The zesty taste from the Middle Eastern ingredients is too addicting. Bordering the downtown Arts District, the minimalistic industrial design with funky metallic designs makes this place fresh and casual. The home of the doner kebab is where it’s at.

Spitz on Urbanspoon

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On the outskirts of Burbank, which to me is pretty much North Hollywood, sits Hayat’s Kitchen. Here lies, some of the best Middle Eastern (Lebanese) food you can find on the cheap. The vibe inside is casual, the decor is to a minimum, and they have a TV. I watched the Lakers game, enjoyed some classic Middle Eastern food, and enjoyed the time. Here, the vibe is similar to that of Mario’s Peruvian. Nothing is pretentious, and the food takes center stage. Everything tasted as it would come out of any Lebanese family’s home. Hayat’s is really unmatched, and one of the best places to get Middle Eastern food in the Los Angeles area.

We started things off with one of my guilty pleasures: french fries. The potatoes harra were fries with garlic and parsley on top. Think, garlic fries on crack. Served with a side of toum, the bright white garlic sauce, you know, like the one at Zankou Chicken, the pure taste was incredible. The garlic level was increased exponentially. This was the perfect start and what garlic fries should be. The parsley did a nice job in keeping the garlic in check.

The Kabob shish tawook was a favorite of mine. The marinated charbroiled chicken breast with pepper and tomato was a perfect mix, and the chicken wasn’t dry.  It came with rice, hummus and salad, and mixing everything inside the pita was delicious.

We ordered the hummus with meat, and we got, hummus and meat.  It was literally a dish of hummus topped with sautéed meat and pine nuts. This sauce, dip, meat concoction was terrific! Not only did I get some hummus in my pita, it had beef inside! Mixing everything from the chicken, lettuce, garlic sauce, hummus, and beef, it was a perfect bite every time.

When Eating Middle Eastern food, it would be for nothing if it weren’t for the side of pickled radish, pickles, and olives. The bright red radishes, with their sour crisp texture is the perfect remedy for meats and fatty dishes. Going back and forth from the pickled veggies and each bite of the pita was like a well oiled machine. Bite of the pita pocket, bite of the radish, some garlic fries, and back from the beginning.

At the end of our meal, they gave us some complimentary baklava. The sticky, gooey good stuff was a perfect end to this surprisingly tasty meal. Hidden in the corner of a strip mall, Hayat’s is certainly a gem. The food is pristine, tasty and affordable. You definitely get more than what you pay for, and little touches like the complimentary baklava keep people coming back. Now we need to do something about having one closer to LA.

Hayat's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Clue number 1, Chicken. Clue number 2, purple turnips. Clue number 3, and this is the kicker, garlic sauce and hummus. By now, if Zankou Chicken isn’t alarming in your mind, you probably haven’t had it before. Heck, did you even read the title? Zankou Chicken is as Middle Eastern as can be. It all started in Beirut, Lebanon in 1962 by the Iskenderian family. In 1984, the family having moved to Los Angeles, opened their first Zankou Chicken in Hollywood. They are all about fast food that is all natural and fresh — and in the end of it all, it really isn’t fast food. They have served the diverse city of Beirut, and what better place than to serve a diverse city like Los Angeles. They are known for their Mediterranean Middle Eastern food, and their secret garlic sauce is their signature item besides their chicken. Being healthy and delicious is what they strive for.

Ordering the half chicken, I was excited to eat. As usual, their chicken was perfectly roasted, and eating even the breast meat was tender and juicy. The skin was nicely caramelized on the outside, it was almost as if it was fried. I would split open the pita to a pocket, stuff it with hommus, chicken, lettuce, and garlic sauce. Each bite was an explosion of flavor, especially with the accompanyment of the pickled purple turnips and yellow peppers. What made this pop was their secret garlic sauce. A bit zesty, and white as snow, I can never have enough of that stuff. Would I ever eat at Zankou Chicken without this stuff? Maybe. Their garlic sauce is what makes Zankou Chicken so special. Put that on anything, and it turns the dish into a flavorful mouthful. the secret recipe is coveted by other, and loved by all.

Shawarma is the preparation of stacked meats on top of each other. Heat is applied to the sides and the meat is cut off as it is cooked on a rotating spit. Their shawerma wrap had slices of marinated USDA steak. Inside hommus, tomatoes, onions and sesame sauce. The meat was much too dry as was the pita bread — hence, the mangled looking wrap. I immediately thought I should have ordered the chicken. The sauces didn’t seem enough because it didn’t help with the dry beef. You are better off ordering the whole chicken and making your own wraps.

At a placed called Zankou Chicken, the chicken is what you should order. Amazingly fresh and clean, the taste of the food is as delicious as can be. The food doesn’t try anything spectacular or over the top. The simplicity of everything just shines. Fresh ingredients and classic recipes make Zankou Chicken one of my favorite casual eateries. Eating here, I am always taken for a trip to Lebanon and the Middle East.

Zankou Chicken (Hollywood) on Urbanspoon

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It’s not every day that I get the pleasure to eat Middle Eastern food, especially Persian. It was my brother’s birthday, and I wanted to treat my family to something they never really had before. The exotic cuisine was a success to say the least. It was fun eating family style at Raffi’s Place in Glendale. The place was really busy, but waiting for a table wasn’t a long wait. The interior was nice — when I say the interior, I mean the outside eating area. Most of the patrons eat outside, which was adorned with lights and trees. It is a fitting place to celebrate something special, or just to have nice a meal.

Not being a fan of lamb, I was hesitant in ordering the Rack Of Lamb. Surprisingly, it was one of the best meats there. It was a succulent rack of spring lamb marinated and charbroiled with bell pepper and onions. It didn’t have an ounce of dryness and was not gamey. The char on the meat was tasty. Soltani Kabob is a filet mignon and ground beef, skewered and charbroiled. It was a perfect beef for sharing. The Shish Kabob was marinated chunks of filet mignon, skewered and charbroiled with bell pepper and onion. The meat was perfectly cooked to a medium well. It was softer that I thought it would be. The Chicken Barg is their most popular item, and their cheapest option. It is skewered and charbroiled, and being a boneless breast of chicken means it is easy to eat.

The side dishes were perfect with the meat. The hummus was as good as it can be. It was cooked, mashed garbanzo beans, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. The eggplant was grilled eggplant with tomato sauce and garlic. It was an awesome side with the meat. It was zesty and flavorful. My favorite was the Yogurt And Cucumber with mixed herbs. Just dipping the flat bread with the hummus was delicious — even better with the meat

The flat bread they gave us was tasty and perfect for meat. It may be the Los Angeles in me, or maybe I am eating it right, but I would stuff the flat bread with meat and all the sauces and eat it like a taco. Each bite with the meat, yogurt sauce, and eggplant along with the hummus was amazing. Then I would take a few scoops of the basmati rice. It is so fluffy and delicious. Cutting up some roasted tomatoes and onions, every flavor was just a perfect mix of textures and taste.

We had to end this meat with dessert. We ordered the Chocolate Raspberry Gelato. It had chocolate gelato with a heart of raspberry sorbet all covered with cocoa powder. The cool thing was that the inside of the chocolate gelato was the raspberry sorbet. It was kind of a cool surprise.

Raffi’s Place is a sure thing. Located in Glendale, CA it is close to The Americana and Glendale Galleria. Inside and out, the place is somewhat classy and isn’t too expensive. The staff can be a bit inattentive, especially when it is busy, but the service is very quick when you do get their attention. I guess Middle Eastern food isn’t quite exotic to me. Make your taco fajitas? Meat and rice? That is an everyday kind of food for me. Their flavors are nice and the atmosphere is pleasant. Nothing more that I can ask for.

Raffi's Place on Urbanspoon

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