I've just discovered Marouch on Santa Monica Boulevard.
I used to live off of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and one of the places that kept me alive was a Lebanese restaurant that fed me kibbeh lebanya and mouhamara once a week. In the back, I could see the older mother making the food while the sons served and welcomed.
I tell my story because I know mouhamara from NY, and this mouhamara: was on an infinite plane above, higher, transcendent mouhamara...
Which I guess I must admit means to say that I did not know mouhamara from NY at all.
I only NOW know mouhamara!
Almost glowing purple red and laden with toasted pine nuts and slivered browned almonds, the walnut and pepper paste seemed to sing with spices just beyond my ability to name.
It was so good, it was actually hard to eat a lot, almost overwhelming to the senses in a way, not just because it was rich or heavy.
Side dishes to my mouhamara: lamb kebob, the incredible bowl of makanek sausages with cinnamon and cloves, hummos, baba, tabouleh, falafel, and fool mudammas, as well as a heaping platter of golden fried sardines, eaten head and tails and bones and all, dipped in tahini.
I no longer miss Atlantic Avenue. Thank you Marouch.
Marouch on Santa Monica Blvd. (in Hollywood) has (IMO) the best Lebanese food in Southern California. He (Lebanese Arab) and his wife (Lebanese Armenian) have been there a very long time. I personally have been dining there for about 20 years now and I can't get enough. Don't let the location and run down parking lot fool you. The food is 2nd to none. Always ask for and try the home made specials (Kibbe, fatoush salad, etc.). First thing you should order is an Almaza beer to wash down the raw almonds soaked in water. That should wet your appetite.
It's too bad Middle Eastern food isn't considered more mainstream. The poor guy banked on his food and opened-up a Marouch on Restaurant Row about 10 or so years ago. Well done establishment with lots of class but sadly, not enough business to cover the expensive real estate. I don't think they lasted more then a year or two at the 2nd location and that is too bad. I'm sure the old man took a financial beating.
On a side note: While there, drive west on Santa Monica Blvd. for 1/3 of a mile, just west of Normandie, there's a bakery called "Sasoun Bakery". If you like Lahmajun's (Middle Eastern style ground beef baby pizzas), they don't get better or fresher then this place. I usually pick-up a couple of dozens and throw them in my freezer. At $9.00 a dozen, you can't go wrong. To prepare, low heat on a griddle until toasty and consume. As an option, you can melt string cheese on it and once melted, top off with avocados, tomatoes and pepercini’s. Simply delicious!
Also, I think Marouch has the best rotisserie chicken in town. Cooked to order, so it needs to be ordered in advance, and it is awesome! Perfectly crispy skin, wonderfully flavorful; it's just top notch.