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Need good rec for Arabic/Lebanese food in LA Area

I'm showing a great group of Jordanians around LA and want to take them one night to dinner that will give them some comfort food from home. North and West of downtown (all the way to Thousand Oaks) would be the preferred area. Thanks very much.

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  1. Alcazar in Encino is probably your best bet. IMO, it has the best combination of food and aesthetics. The food is excellent, particularly the hot and cold mezza, and they have a full bar. You can look at the menu online: www.al-cazar.com

    Carnival in Sherman Oaks also has very good Lebanese food. I prefer Alcazar, but others prefer Carnival. However, Carnival is not nearly as attractive a restaurant.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jwsel

      my wife's family is all lebanese (she is the oldest of 26 cousins just on her mother's side). outside of eating their (and my wife's) home cooking, alcazar and carnival are perenial favorites of the entire family. highly second both!

    2. I know many a Jordanian who claims that the shwarma at Zankou is the closest you can get to the actual thing in Amman. My friend's brother, who lives in San Francisco, makes her bring it to him on the plane when she comes to visit. They may enjoy a little taste of home from there.

      Also, I've had some good Arabic food at Sham on Santa Monica in Santa Monica, but don't let them try the mansaf, it's just not as good as the real thing.

      4 Replies
      1. re: voodoochild

        I strongly second Sham, which I personally much prefer to Zankou, though I have no sense of which is more authentic. Sham is also a very pleasant space in which to have a meal.

        1. re: a_and_w

          I've been to Sham once or twice and liked it, too.

          For what it's worth, I think that Sham is Syrian ... not that I would know the difference between Syrian and Jordanian cuisine (I'm not that sophisticated) ...

          1. re: PaulF

            Syrian and Jordanian cuisine are extremely similar. In fact, "Sham" is the Arabic name for the territory that includes Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and (I think) Israel.

        2. re: voodoochild

          What's wrong with the mansaf at Sham? I finally tried Sham today and almost ordered the mansaf. Instead, I ordered this other special lamb dish (forgot the name), which consisted of stewed greens with thin slivers of lamb on top. I didn't like it at all, but figured it was just me and that the dish wasn't to my taste, rather than the dish not being prepared well.

        3. Cedar House in Valley Village, Riverside and Whitsett, is quite good, and very reasonably priced. For what its worth the LA Times rated their hummous as one of the best in the area. Even my wife, not a fan of middle-eastern cuisine, loved it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ebethsdad

            I enjoyed Cedar House.

            The Hummous was very good. The Fattoush was fabulous,

            1. re: ebethsdad

              Thirding Cedar House. Very good and inexpensive.

            2. For excellent Lebanese, I generally recommend Sunnin. But it doesn't cater to large groups as it is a small hole in the wall.
              For a more formal gathering with ambiance and great Lebanese food I'd suggest Mandaloun or Marouch.

              1. avoid sham and sunnin. jwsel and the penguin post got it right-- alcazar or carnival.
                i'd add carousel and olympia to the list

                10 Replies
                1. re: epop

                  I haven't hit Alcazar or Carnival, but your dismissal of Sham is absurd.

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but since the original request appears to be for north AND west, Santa Monica probably isn't a very realistic option.

                    1. re: Jwsel

                      Your geographical point is well taken, but my comment was solely in reference to the food, as was epop's. To suggest that Sham is a place to be "avoided" is ridiculous absent further explanation.

                    2. re: a_and_w

                      i walk by it every day and jump in the car and brave the traffic to go to glendale, only for the lebanese food there. i wish i could eat at Sham. it is fine for hummus and baba gannouj but that's it.

                      there's a marked difference in quality between sham and the other places listed. i've had a lot of homemade lebanese food and Sham doesn't come close. the others do. i wish Sham did b/c i don't like to drive.

                    3. re: epop

                      second the recommendation to avoid sunnin.
                      any place that will put falafal balls in a microwave. . . . .

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        Ever since I read your comment (which you make EVERY time Sunin is mentioned) I've watched them carefully when I go and have never seen them nuke falafel. Regardless, I stick with the shawarma, which is excellent.

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          I am not crazy about Sunnin's falafel (it's ok, but not exceptional), but I have also never seen them microwave it. Every time I've ordered it, I've seen them put it in the deep fryer. Zankou, on the other hand, rarely gives you fresh falafel balls unless you're really lucky - most of the time, they sit under a heat lamp. Yuck!

                          I love the falafel at Bella Pita (mentioned elsewhere in this board) - at most places in LA, I usually end up not finishing falafel because I get sick of it about 3/4 of the way through. At Bella, I consistently finish my falafel sandwiches.

                          I also like Saca's way out in Claremont. I kind of burned out on their falafel during my college days, but it's good, and always fried fresh.

                      2. re: epop

                        Where is Olympia? I have never heard of it. Sadly, it is probably not anywhere near where I live, as I assume I would have heard of it if it were nearby.

                        1. re: omotosando

                          Olympia Kabob House

                          10658 Zelzah Ave
                          Granada Hills, CA
                          91344
                          Phone: (818) 360-9993

                          they have a meat market next door so their food reflects that

                          1. re: epop

                            Thanks. Sadly, nowhere near where I live. Alcazar is much closer, so next time I am in the SFV, I will give Alcazar a try.

                        1. Alcazar.
                          Also you might want try Phoenicia in Glendale, which nobody ever mentions but is quite good.

                          1. Well... here's the thing. If you want atmosphere, Carnival or Alcazar are the way to go. If you want fantastic food in a totally no-frills atmosphere, but with a very friendly group of Lebanese, I recommend Skaf's. I find their food better than Carnival or Alcazar, but it's sitting at cheap tables with pictures of cedar trees on the wall and the kitchen taking up half the restaurant.