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Review: Aroma Café in West L.A.

Day 37: Bosnia and Herzegovina

I’ve been fortunate enough to eat a lot of different and interesting foods lately, but sometimes I just find myself sleepwalking through a meal. It isn’t that the food is bad, because if it were, it would definitely stand out. But so would a particularly good one. On occasion, it manages to make me full and at the end I’m not sure I have anything to say. This is partially the fault of the restaurant itself, but must also be due to the cuisine as well. If the meal is prepared in this middle ground of execution, I may well still be intrigued just because the type of food is so new and exciting. But Eastern European food, even when mixed with a Mediterranean influence, has become very familiar. Things like kabob, chevapchichi, sour cream, goulash and stuffed peppers have become quite familiar. Sometimes there are even dumplings. Don’t get me wrong, I like this cuisine a lot, but at this point, for it to stand out to me, it has to be particularly well executed.

Aroma Café in West L.A. I decide for a simple night out with GirlfriendBites at the end of my first legitimate 40 hour work week in quite some time. I pick her up from home, we drive up to the restaurant and get a spot right out front. We look at the menu for a few minutes, make our order and pretty soon food starts coming out. A simple roasted pepper salad with parsley, oil and vinegar is good enough to remind me of outdoor cafes near cobalt blue oceans, but not quite enough to transport me there. A basic, properly cooked chicken kabob on a bed of onions (there aren’t a lot of pork or beef free dishes available for GFB) is satisfactory. The cheese burek, a baked philo dough stuffed with a slightly tart white cheese is an addition to the meal that makes my ears perk slightly. It’s warm, crispy and surrounds a cheese with enough character to stand out and give something more than just a texture change. Lastly I drop the side of my fork through the middle of sour cabbage leaves wrapped around rice and ground meat. They sit like boats in some kind of salty, savory ocean with a sour cream island floating in the middle. The sour versions of both the cabbage and cream are a welcome means to cut into some of the overwhelming seasonings, but eventually everything seems to dissolve into an erupted volcano where everything combines, sinks and dissolves into the brownish translucent depths. Not a bad dish by any means, but nothing I’ll be thinking about tomorrow. We sip strong cafe lattes and I’m happy for a little caffeine boost to make sure I’m awake enough to enjoy a few more hours of my Friday night.

We leave the restaurant and head toward the video rental store to drop off some overdue movies and I try to take a moment to gather my thoughts on the meal that was just ingested. But then, for a moment, I can’t remember what I had just eaten. It passes quickly and I recall what had transpired, but realize that it may have been a product of so many meals and almost as many countries, back to back— yet I have to think that if I’d eaten something spectacular, this wouldn’t have happened at all. I don’t mean to complain, and I’m not sure that’s what this is, but tonight felt less like an opportunity for learning and more like grabbing a quick bite by my house before before calling it a week. However, the great thing is, at least for now, there will be a tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it.

Aroma Café
2530 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 836-2919

Food Breakdown: 2 non-alcoholic beverages, 3 appetizers, 1 entrees
Price: $37
Distance From My House: 1.8 miles


Aroma Cafe
2530 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90064

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  1. I really wanted to love this place as it is so close to my house but, it just falls short in so many departments every time I go. Your experience echoes mine... totally unmemorable and sometimes, just plain bland and blah.

    1. The best thing to do at Aroma on Overland, is to nurse a cup of their great Turksha coffee (which is basically Turkish coffee) for the better part of a lazy afternoon along with a cherry strudel. Sure beats Strawbucks.

      1. I like their desserts and breads, esp. the hurmasice.

        1. my experience of a couple of months ago was the same as noahbites and banquisha. wanted to love it, but once was enough! other than the brad it was heavy, and not particularly tasty or fun.

          1. The best thing about Aroma is to sit outside and drink coffee and hear the clutch of men talk in Serbo Croatian or whatever. Low voices, glasses clinking. Takes me back to Dubrovnik when I was 20 and Tito was still around. Skip the food - bland, tastless and the hope that it would be better never comes. Don't even try to hope - its just the outdoors and the coffee and the low voices that work.

            1. I happen to like their burek... just order the meat burek, not the cheese. The cevapi is best when you add the onions and slather in a bit of their buttery kajmak (ask them for it).

              1 Reply
              1. re: WBGuy

                I really like the Kajmak (somewhere between butter and stinky soft cheese). It's great smeared on their bread.

              2. They need to learn how to dress a plate.

                I felt like I was in someone's home and I came unannounced. The ordering and delivery of my food did not go smoothly.

                I had heard great things about Aroma Cafe and walked away quite disappointed and hungry.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mar52

                  I disagree. One of the charms of this restaurant is that it is a place for their local expats to hang out and eat simple food like what I imagine it must be like back home. I really hope they don't start "plating" and dressing up the food. It's not that kind of place.

                2. Wait -has anyone tried their Pljeskavica? I just had one again over the weekend. For me, this is the most amazing hamburger alternative out there. The meat patty is delicious and huge, the bun, more of a focaccia is very fresh and has the perfect texture for the meat. It comes with chopped onions. Once I recall it was served with a dish of something creamy and maybe garlicky -could it have been the kajmak? It was the perfect condiment. If you want a better description, read what Jonathan Gold has to say:


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Dyspepsia

                    It's the Kajmak -- but I think sometimes you have to ask for it. If I'm not mistaken, you can order it as an appeitzer, or ask for a side with your "burger". It's great on the pljeskavica (or any of the meats for that matter). And Mar52 is right, you order a skewer of lamb, that's what you get on the plate, not a sprig of parsley in site -- just like at grandma's (I mean, not my grandma, someone else's)

                    1. re: Dyspepsia

                      Yes, I love the pljeskavica.When I was there back last time I noticed the expats asking for tomatoes and fresh cheese on their "burgers", and was very jealous having missed out on this obvious yet seldom requested addition by us Bosnian food novices.Next time, it looked so good.

                    2. I had a very pleasant lunch today at Aroma Cafe. And, since the latest reviews are OLD, I thought I'd give a quick update.

                      Parking is easy in the small strip mall lot, or on the side street. The restaurant was not crowded.

                      My friend and I each ordered the Shopksa salad -- which came in a 2-cup bowl. This is like a Greek salad, only with the vegetables uniformly chopped and covered with grated cheese. I enjoyed the salad, but would be much better when tomatoes/etc are in season.

                      I also ordered Pljeskavica - which is like a tasty, slightly spicy meat (traditioanally pork, lamb and beef combined) patty, in a large flat foccaccia pun. I added feta, kajmak (butter/ricotta/cream cheese spread) and tomatoes, on the advice of my (ethnic Bosnian) friend. YUM. I ate the entire sandwich - which was not small.

                      Aroma's small patio area is really pleasant with lots of well-cared for flowers. I would definitely sit outside on a warm day. Service was friendly, if slow-ish. Restaurant was very clean (although I did not see the bathroom).

                      Total for two salads and two entree was $40. We drank water. Aroma Cafe probably is not a destination place, but is a great option if you are near the Westside Pavilion and want a low-key option, or can't get into Westside Tavern. I think it would be a good casual date place too.

                      Westside Tavern
                      10850 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA