Soumarelo in Pasadena - a find!
We had lunch today at Soumarelo at 1090 North Allen - it's between Mountain and Washington on the east side of the street. It's middle Eastern food with a Russian Armenian twist.
Two of us shared a shwarma sandwich - a bargain at $5. The beef had been marinated in a deliciously herbal mix and had a wonderful flavor. The sandwich included a tahini dressing and chopped lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. The only quibble was that the pita bread it was wrapped in fell apart owing to the amount of liquid inside. We both finished eating with knives and forks.
We had a side order of ekra, a kind of eggplant caviar, and a dish called simply "Potatoes and onions". Since DH has never met a potato he didn't like, this was a must. It consisted of quartered small red potatoes, deep-fried along with sliced onions. It came with a fine dusting of cheese on top, and was totally addictive. The ekra was roasted eggplant mashed with a combination of peppers and tomatoes. It was served with toasted pita chips, and could be eaten as a dip or a salad. It was so good we ordered another portion to take home. We'll use it as an appetizer tomorrow night when we have some friends over.
They also serve whole or half rotisserie chickens with garlic paste. We'll try that one next - I'm betting it'll replace Zankou in our takeout rotation.
There's some mixed reviews here, but I may give this place a try. By the way, the BEST ekra in town (aside from my mom's homemade stuff) can be found at the "Old Fashion Deli" on Cañada Blvd in Glendale (just south of Oakmont Country Club). This eggplant salad is one of the gem Armenian foods I grew up with that all of my friends have become addicted to once they've tasted it. I recommend trying it if you haven't... especially those wanting to expand their vegetarian options.
We have tried several times and have been quite pleased. Only complaint is that the rice can be a little on the oily side. Everything was very tasty, service good and friendly. The stand out HAD been the wonderful hummus. Unfortunately on our last visit something was up with the hummus. After a few bites we threw it out. There was this "tang" that changed the flavor profoundly. Maybe a switch from fresh garlic to dried garlic powder (or something like that which overwhelms all other flavors. Like the pre-minced garlic from TJ's - ALWAYS identifiable in a dish and thus not worth the convenience.)
Too bad it isn't. My wife and I ate there and once was enough. We will not be returning.
Service was poor, the food pales in comparison to Lebanese Kitchen or Sahara, and the prices were not much cheaper (if at all) than the aforementioned standouts.
Zankou in Pasadena may be a grease bomb, but at least they don't stiff you on the pickles and turnips. This place was really not worth visiting. Sahara (at Colorado & Grand Oaks) is open just as late, and Lebanese Kitchen (nearby, but with weird hours) blows Soumarelo out of the water. Think "difference between supermarket sushi and Matsuhisa" blows it away. At about the same price, maybe a little more, but with vastly better ambiance and service.
Oh well, at least we didn't get sick.
Lebanese Kitchen can have off nights; either they're very good or they suck.
I am surprised that they could turn out "unbelievably bad" food though. Then again, the bar was lowered pretty badly by Soumarelo. Lebanese Kitchen is not Carousel,
but, this place... the food was not just bad in a variable sort of way, but plain BAD.
If Glendale is closer to you then by all means stick to that. Every decent Armenian place I've eaten in Glendale blows this joint out of the water. (Although I do still think that the original Carousel in Hollywood is actually better than in Glendale.)
Well this particular night was so off that there's no way I'm giving it a second chance.
The food was atrocious, and I'm not comparing it to any great restaurant in Beirut or anything, I mean compared to local standards.
I wrote about it here:
I actually wanted it to be at least decent because it's walking distance from me. Same goes for Soumarelo, but I'm not going to waste money and space in my stomach for another disappointment.
Carousel is good enough. But last couple of times I've eaten Armenian/Lebanese was at Ara Kalfayan's new Phoenicia in Glendale. Kalfayan is the guy who opened Mandaloun several years back, when it was good; Phoenicia was his first restaurant and now he's back at it.
(The grilled meats, as is often the case in these places, are not nearly as good as all the wonderful other dishes on the menu)