Does anyone have any recommendations for great Lebanese food? Anything downtown would be most appreciated, but I am willing to drive far and wide if the food requires it.
There are several Lebanese places in town that I know of.
One is in the San Fernando Valley on Woodman Avenue. It's Carnavale(sp?). Informal atmosphere, fair prices and pretty good chow.
Another is Marouch, in Hollywood, at around the 4900 block of Santa Monica blvd. I haven't been there yet, myself, but I've read only great things about it. I strongly suggest that you check it out.
One place I have been to, several times, is Petra, on South Beverly Drive, in Beverly Hills. I haven't tried much on their menu, but everything I have has been really good, especially their incredible bargain of a schwarma at lunch which, including a salad, is less than eight bucks. By all means, check this place out.
Yeah, Sunnin's good, and the Westwood one's right near my house. I like Pita Pita, in Pasadena, even more. I think it's on Green, across from Kansai and next to the Market City Cafe. It's a little more expensive, but it's very good. They have these great, probably inauthentic, fried-pita chips that are really good with this dark, red , slightly spicy sauce they give you. When I was in high school, I used to like to take little sandwiches to school made out of pita chips and pieces of chicken or lamb kebab. The veggie kebabs are good too, although I don't think they're on the menu. Garlic or mushroom chicken is good, also, as is a lamb stew whose name I forget.
re: David Boyk
I love Pita Pita in Pasadena. It's tasty, and very reasonable. It's my current favorite ME food place.
I also like Carousel in Glendale, but they give you so much food, it took a couple of visits to figure out how much to order. You also have to be a little careful where you sit if the band is playing. Otherwise you may not be able to carry on a conversation.
Tempo is good, too. It's on Ventura Boulevard near Hayvenhurst. I haven't been there in a while, but I remember they had various cigars on the menu along with the food. Very unique. You have to watch out for the singer here, too.
Marouch, on Santa Monica in Hollywood, was good. I've only been there once, but I really enjoyed it that time.
I would caution against the Blue Pyramid in Glendale. The food is okay, but what finally got me to stop going was the service. This old man would ignore you for a while, then take your order, then disappear for over a half hour. Finally, the bus staff serves you, and brings you what you ask for, but it's really a hassle. This happened not once, but twice. So no more for me, thanks.
There's Carousel on Brand Blvd. in Glendale which is good for sit-down linen-napkin chowing, or there's my favourite-anytime-anywhere Lebanese place, called Skaf's Grill. It's at the corner of Laurel Canyon and Oxnard Blvds. in North Hollywood in a ghastly corner strip mall.
The decor consists chiefly of the grill and some pictures of Beyrouth and other cities. The menu food is excellent, but the real reason to go is for the specials. Sam always cooks a special for the day, and they are out of the world, to the point where I don't even ask anymore, I just say I'll have the special.
The kefte (not kefte kabob, this is more like a slice of meatloaf) is delicately spiced and served with a warm tomato sauce that's just out of this world. The hommous that's served with everything is wonderful and I would love to know where he gets his olive oil.
I also like the kibbeh, but it's not for everyone - he does use the highest-quality meat in his preparation though.
My vote is for Caroussel, though its not technically Lebanese per se. I've tried many other places in town - Marouch (fair -gone upscale and no longer worth it) , Skaff's (atosphere lacking but food was good though I didn't have a special), the old al Amir (no longer with us), Carnaval (good, very friendly place).... For overall quality, consistency, bright clean flavors, I return to Caroussel, usually the Hollywood branch (though the food is just as good at the fancier Brand Blvd location). Focus on the appetizers rather than the entres; the hummous, muhammara, kibbeh, labneh, tabouli, cheese fatayer, and the foul (fava) are all exceptional. However, as is the case in most ME restaurants, do not be enticed by the grape leaves (unless you find the real thing - served hot in a lime garlic broth with chunks of beef or lamb with a side of yogurt).