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Lebanese that's better than Sunin?

Mari Nov 26, 2008 11:08 AM

I am heading to the LA area (Moorpark) in December and would like to make a stop at Sunin in Westwood. I've been going to Sunin for about 8 years and have been satisfied after each visit. Am I missing out on another similar place with excellent Lebanese food? I've been to Carousel and I wasn't too crazy about it (that was about 7 years ago). Is there another place I should check out on this visit?

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  1. n
    ns1 RE: Mari Nov 26, 2008 11:16 AM

    have you been to skafs?

    7 Replies
    1. re: ns1
      Mari RE: ns1 Nov 26, 2008 11:27 AM

      No, please tell me - is it better than Sunin? I've only been to Sunin and Carousel for Lebanese (Armenian). There's virtually no Lebanese food in SF so I need to get my fix.

      1. re: Mari
        n
        ns1 RE: Mari Nov 26, 2008 12:02 PM

        Never been, but Skaf's is pretty well regarded. I can only attest to the Glendale location, but the NoHo is the original one

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/445289
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/49773

        I'm addicted to the shawarma, but the kefta is great as well.

        1. re: Mari
          Das Ubergeek RE: Mari Nov 26, 2008 12:18 PM

          Yes, it is. The Glendale branch of Skaf's is nicer-looking but I find the food better at the North Hollywood (and original) branch. You should order whatever's on the whiteboard of specials... it all comes with hummus (very likely the best in the city), cabbage salad with tomatoes, and pita, and usually with rice too.

          If you want the hummus-with-beef plate that Sunnin is famous for you just need to ask -- it's not on Skaf's menu but they can make it.

          Another possibility is Carnival, on Woodman Avenue and Moorpark Street in Sherman Oaks. It's got some decor, and the food is very good -- I just like Skaf's better, hole-in-the-wall-in-a-seedy-strip-mall though it is.

          -----
          Skaf's Grill
          6008 Laurel Canyon Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91606

          Carnival Restaurant
          4356 Woodman Ave, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

          Skaf's Grill
          367 N Chevy Chase Dr, Glendale, CA 91206

          1. re: Das Ubergeek
            n
            ns1 RE: Das Ubergeek Nov 26, 2008 03:51 PM

            What is this hummus with beef you speak of?

            My regular order @Skaf's is something like beef shawarma + hummus + falafel

            1. re: ns1
              Das Ubergeek RE: ns1 Nov 26, 2008 09:23 PM

              Sunnin have this dish that's basically a plate of hummus with strips of beef on it. Sometimes it's grilled sliced beef, sometimes it's shawarma pieces, depends who makes it.

              My regular order at Skaf's is "whatever's on the specials board".

              I'm going to be in Burbank all next week -- clearly I need to carve out the time to go up to Skaf's for lunch.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                n
                ns1 RE: Das Ubergeek Nov 27, 2008 09:42 AM

                ah I see

                Well it's on Skaf's menu now (Glendale location), hummus with beef shawarma on top, something like 8 bucks

                I love it.

          2. re: Mari
            l
            ldodb RE: Mari Nov 28, 2008 10:44 AM

            I've never been to Sunin, but I go to Skaf's all the time (NOHO) and its consistently great.

        2. b
          bechamelmacho RE: Mari Nov 26, 2008 12:01 PM

          Marouch in East Hollywood (Little Armenia) is easily the best and most authentic Lebanese in town. It is located on Santa Monica Blvd., about 2 blocks west of Vermont.
          Go. You will not be disappointed. Skaff's is good (and very reasonable) but has a very
          limited menu in comparison to Marouch.

          4 Replies
          1. re: bechamelmacho
            a
            Adsvino RE: bechamelmacho Nov 26, 2008 12:18 PM

            Seconded.

            1. re: Adsvino
              Hershey Bomar RE: Adsvino Dec 3, 2008 09:15 AM

              second seconded

            2. re: bechamelmacho
              hrhboo RE: bechamelmacho Nov 28, 2008 09:29 AM

              I've been on the hunt for Shish Barak in LA for the better part of 7 years and see that Marouch serves it on Thursdays. What a great find, thanks for putting me out of my misery!

              1. re: hrhboo
                k
                kevin RE: hrhboo Dec 1, 2008 11:03 AM

                i also checked their menu, and they got basturma too, along with other sausages, and shwarma. i gotta try it soon, and to think it's been open for the better part of two decades.

                on a side note, whateger happened to al amir on wilshire near the tar pits.

            3. Servorg RE: Mari Nov 26, 2008 12:49 PM

              If you would like to try a place that features food from Syria, (similar to Lebanese but with influences from Turkey) then give Sham in Santa Monica a whirl.

              http://www.sham.la/

              -----
              Sham Restaurant
              716 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

              26 Replies
              1. re: Servorg
                a
                Adsvino RE: Servorg Nov 26, 2008 02:19 PM

                What is good here, Servorg?

                1. re: Adsvino
                  Servorg RE: Adsvino Nov 26, 2008 02:27 PM

                  I really like their kibbeh and the baba ghannouj (and their shawarma has always been outstanding). I look forward to to reading your take on it, Adsvino if you end up trying it. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all the other LA Hounds.

                  1. re: Servorg
                    a
                    Adsvino RE: Servorg Nov 26, 2008 02:42 PM

                    I certainly will--I am a baba addict--who isn't?

                    Happy Thanksgiving to all--I am grateful to have online friends with your caliber of taste buds, and who see through the hype--you make me thankful to be in LA.

                    1. re: Adsvino
                      a_and_w RE: Adsvino Nov 28, 2008 10:02 AM

                      Just a quick heads up that Sham's fresh and delicious baba ganoush is a bit different from what most people think of when ordering the dish. For a more familiar preparation, get the moutabal, which is also out of this world. I love their garlickly fava beans, which you can substitute as a side to the shawarma platters for a dollar or two extra.

                2. re: Servorg
                  Frommtron RE: Servorg Nov 27, 2008 10:56 AM

                  I'll second Sham. If I *had* to choose between Sunnin and Sham I'd go with the former. Sham, however, is different enough that it can inspire its own cravings.

                  I'll also put in a word for Carnival, which is very tasty. You are apparently staying right on top of it so you owe it a visit. You may be able to walk to it.

                  Wahib's in Alhambra is good but I'm not sure it's worth the drive from Moorpark. I wouldn't say it tops Sunnin, Sham, or Carnival by much if at all. Besides, when you go to Alhambra, etc., can anyone resist the myriad East Asian restaurants? I know I can't.

                  1. re: Frommtron
                    e
                    epop RE: Frommtron Nov 28, 2008 11:15 AM

                    I would put sunnin and sham in the same category of places that i wouldn't go to. Greatly prefer the Valley and Glendale places (but haven't been to Marouch yet).

                    I've also had far better Arabic food at the relatively unknown Amoon Ra on N. La Cienaga. + it is open very late.

                    This comes from someone who has spent a lot of time in Lebanese homes.

                    Amoon Ra
                    980 N La Cienega Blvd
                    West Hollywood, CA 90069
                    (310) 854-7777

                    1. re: epop
                      Frommtron RE: epop Nov 28, 2008 02:50 PM

                      I'll buy the concept of your personal preference but:

                      1. I'm not sure about the authenticity angle. My Lebanese friends go wild for Sunnin and they've logged some serious hours in a Lebanese kitchen.

                      2. Sham has some takes on "Arabic" food that you might not find elsewhere as most places seem to be very Lebanese focused and Sham seems to be coming from a Syrian point of view.

                      3. What Glendale/Valley places are you referring to other than Carnival and Skaf's? Just curious to try something new.

                      4. Looking forward to trying Amoon Ra. I'm not into hookas or belly dancing. Any suggestions on when to avoid all of that?

                      1. re: Frommtron
                        Servorg RE: Frommtron Nov 28, 2008 03:23 PM

                        I find Sham both good and pretty authentic (and with 5 years living / working in the Middle East I was at least exposed to a lot of Arabian food).

                        1. re: Frommtron
                          e
                          epop RE: Frommtron Nov 29, 2008 09:08 AM

                          You're right, Frommtron, they do get an arabic clientele that would disagree with me. And they do have the hours in the kitchen. I can't argue with that. What I would say is that a) they are eating in imperfect kitchens b) they simply don't know food that well, aren't that discriminating.
                          I don't mean that in a snobby way. The quality just isn't there at Sunnin and Sham, especially Sunnin. I know several incredible Arabic cooks and they won't step foot in there again. Acceptable? As I said below in response to hrhboo it is difficult to find a place that is tolerable to them.

                          Valley: for example Alcatraz, Olympia, and a few whose names I don't know but I just go to. Glendale: Carousel and sometimes Mandaloun. I haven't try Marouch myself but expect that it will be many notches above Sham and Sunnin.

                          I can walk to Sham and Sunnin and hate driving but end up going all the way to Glendale b/c these places do nothing for me; the proof is in the gasoline.

                          1. re: epop
                            Frommtron RE: epop Nov 29, 2008 11:28 PM

                            You can walk to Sham OR Sunnin. I'd say you're a hell of a walker even if you were smack in the middle of the two to feel comfortable going to both, but great work if you do!

                            I was simply providing a point of reference in saying that my Lebanese friends are very happy with Sunnin. Differing opinions are wonderful, but it's more than presumptuous or snobby to label them undiscriminating or to say that their experiences of their own country's cuisine is imperfect because they don't align with what your friends say.

                            1. re: Frommtron
                              e
                              epop RE: Frommtron Dec 1, 2008 11:36 AM

                              I have Lebanese friends that are happy with Sunnin too but I don't value their opinion as much as my other more discriminating set of friends (whom I disagree with plenty). Ultimately I was the judge and I found Sunnin ok for a fast food Arabic lunch, as you say. But not more than that.

                              Not a hell of a walker. I can get to either in less than an hour... I guess I'm not from LA... I'll walk to Koreatown...

                        2. re: epop
                          hrhboo RE: epop Nov 28, 2008 06:58 PM

                          I'm Arab and vastly prefer both Sunnin and Sham to Amoon Ra. A place with coconut shrimp and Fettucine Alfredo on the menu just doesn't scream "authentically Arabic" to me! I could look past the superfluous menu additions if the mediterranean dishes were well-executed but the flavors are sadly lacking. Looking forward to trying Marouch.

                          1. re: hrhboo
                            e
                            epop RE: hrhboo Nov 29, 2008 09:02 AM

                            that's funny and i agree about the pasta. but have amoon ra's mezze and tell me they're not a step up from sunnin, for example. if i don't want to make tabbouli i get it there and it can be as fresh as home. i wouldn't get complicated there, for sure.

                            for that i would go to glendale or the Valley, which can sometimes hit the higher notes of Arabic cuisine. still by far the best is in the kitchens of my friends', who won't eat at any of the places we mention, basically; they dismiss them as pale imitations.

                            1. re: epop
                              hrhboo RE: epop Nov 29, 2008 10:08 AM

                              I rarely make it out to the Valley but I'll make a point of trying your above recs when I'm next in the area.

                              Sunnin serves what is typically considered Arabic "fast food", and it works for me in that regard. Marouch appears to have more serious dishes as daily specials, if any of your friends have tried it I'd be interested in hearing their impressions.

                            2. re: hrhboo
                              Frommtron RE: hrhboo Nov 29, 2008 09:07 AM

                              Hi hrhboo,

                              Any suggestions for food from the Gulf states?

                              Thanks

                              1. re: Frommtron
                                hrhboo RE: Frommtron Nov 29, 2008 09:56 AM

                                As far as I'm aware, there isn't any to be found nearby. Noahbites went to an Iraqi restaurant in El Cajon and had the ubiquitous grill fare found in most Arab countries, but I can't find a menu online to see if they have any Gulf dishes.
                                http://manbitesworld.com/articles/72/...

                                To be fair, it isn't easy to find uniquely Gulf dishes in restaurants in the Gulf states themselves so it's not surprising that it's hard to come by here. It's unfortunately one of those cuisines that is served in the home and rarely outside of it. If anyone knows about which Iraqi dishes are served at Ali Baba in El Cajon, I'd love to hear more about it.

                                **edit
                                I found the menu for Ali Baba online and they have a few traditional Gulf dishes that I've never seen on a menu anywhere in LA. The long drive would be totally worth it if their versions of harees, tashreeb and gousi are good!
                                http://alibabakabab.com/menu_e.htm

                                1. re: hrhboo
                                  Frommtron RE: hrhboo Nov 29, 2008 10:54 PM

                                  Awesome. Thank you.

                              2. re: hrhboo
                                streetgourmetla RE: hrhboo Nov 29, 2008 06:59 PM

                                I peeked in this restaurant,Amoon Ra, a while back looked at a menu, snickered and walked out.This place belongs in Disneyland.Oh, and how about the Amoun Ra melt and shrimp cocktail?The Fettucine is one of their "house specials", and the groovy crowd was definitely there to party, not to delve into authentic Arabic food.

                                If you ate here hrhboo, you must have taken one for the team.Thanks for sparing me.

                                1. re: streetgourmetla
                                  e
                                  epop RE: streetgourmetla Nov 29, 2008 07:50 PM

                                  don't judge a book by the cover. it is far better than sham and sunnin, if you know what to order

                                  1. re: epop
                                    streetgourmetla RE: epop Nov 29, 2008 09:10 PM

                                    Well, I'm actually judging it by its table of contents, a browse through and a bad review, and my own ability to discern the chatter.

                                    I'm down with Carnival,Skaf's,Marouch,Carousel,Phoenicia,and Alcazar for Lebanese and Lebanese-Armenian.Mandaloun was great but is closed, unless it reopened.I miss Pasha under the helm of the former head chef at Carousel(Glendale).I worked with an Armenian singer there for about nine months feasting on superb Lebanese-Armenian.

                                    I have a friend who is now a celebrity chef, and his cooking is thought of highly here, and he likes to go to Mexicali on Ventura, so the "I know chefs" argument doesn't quite sell it for me, and is as argumentative as saying someone's Lebanese friends are lightweights.

                                    Skaf's is a great example of our finest Lebanese offerings here, among others mentioned by hrhboo, Sevorg, and DasUbergeek.

                                    But, I'll keep a look out and see if there's any buzz around Amoon Ra.How's the shrimp scampi?Oh, come on.

                                    1. re: streetgourmetla
                                      e
                                      epop RE: streetgourmetla Nov 29, 2008 10:13 PM

                                      which bad review?

                                      the funny thing is i seem to be getting some slack for mentioning this place when i think it is high time that places like sunnin and sham (better than sunnin) ought to be seen as third-rate. amoon ra is a notch above them, if you order right, plain and simple. their tabbouli, for ex., has been as fresh and perfect as it gets. i could care less about their scampi. i never put it in the same category as those mentioned in your email, stgourmet, btw... "oh, come on"

                                      1. re: epop
                                        streetgourmetla RE: epop Nov 29, 2008 11:29 PM

                                        Haven't been to Sunnin or Sham(great review by Mr. Gold), but seems interesting given the reports.Don't have the time with all the restaurants on my list for a place like Amoon Ra, 'less I hear otherwise from the various sources I use, and trust, including my own impressions.

                                        I know and have been following along here that you didn't place it in league with the agreed upon restaurants here, but you did regard this Red Lobsterish menu as serious food.

                                        Being that I live near Skaf's I'll sit this one out based on the several factors I mentioned.

                                        Shrimp Scampi isn't simple?The house specials at this place are Fettuccini Alfredo,Penne Pasta Margarita,Musaka, and the Amoon Ra veggie plate.Also simple.It will take more than just tabbule to make this a destination, or to even try.There is nothing complex or interesting on their menu, so let's get move on from thsat notion.

                                        I'm all set for mezze, but if Amoon Ra gets more praise and comes up with something interesting on their menu I would be glad to come out, smoke some hookah, watch a belly dance show, and "dance the night away to the beats of their live DJ".The website says you get to dance with the belly dancers! I'l even request "King Tut"

                                        1. re: streetgourmetla
                                          a_and_w RE: streetgourmetla Nov 30, 2008 08:11 AM

                                          I was actually annoyed by Gold's review of Sham. Why would you judge such a place based solely on the brunch?

                                          1. re: a_and_w
                                            streetgourmetla RE: a_and_w Nov 30, 2008 08:35 AM

                                            Hello a_and_w.You seem to like this place,so I'm perplexed by your question.
                                            "but seems interesting given the reports", was what I wrote, and that would include your post in this thread, so sit back and feel pleased that you along with Jonathan Gold and others even here in this thread have interested me in this place.So, it's more than just the brunch, and ultimately, my judgement doesn't come until I've had a chance to go.

                                            You wrote about several mezze saying it was different but
                                            delicious.I am getting that, that people shouldn't expect the usual Lebanese influenced flavors like most places around town, this place being Syrian.And, I live for that.When I read a review, I can draw my own conclusions, can't you?What I got from his review was that he preferred Lebanese, and I could care less about his personal preferences, because they are his, not mine.My general experience tells me that Syrian mezze will have a different flavor and possibly presentation.I thought I was clear about that.

                                            1. re: streetgourmetla
                                              a_and_w RE: streetgourmetla Nov 30, 2008 08:43 AM

                                              Sorry for the confusion -- I meant why would *Gold* judge the place based on brunch. If I remember correctly, his review kind of panned Sham. Lots of people jumped all over him in the comments.

                                              ETA: Here's the review I'm thinking of:

                                              http://www.laweekly.com/2008-04-17/ea...

                                              1. re: a_and_w
                                                streetgourmetla RE: a_and_w Nov 30, 2008 08:57 AM

                                                I'm with you.I thought the same thing, but it is impossible to have a thorough knowledge of all cuisines, or to be experienced.Many prominent reviewers miss the point of cuisines that I'm quite familiar with, but I'm always glad to hear about the find, or for them to expose a restaurant I like.That's the great thing about Chowhound, we have a chance to balance the weak reviews.

                                                Since some of you know quite a bit about Arabic food, I'm curious if any of the places specked throughout the Fashion District are any good.

                        3. z
                          ZoeZ RE: Mari Nov 29, 2008 10:36 AM

                          Hadia's at 19657 1/2 Ventura is fabulous because Hadia cooks everything to order as in "no soup yet, I have't had time to make it". She has marvellous kibbeh for 99 cents each - huge, moist. She is Lebanese to the max with homus (#1 with Mme Zoe) and ab ghanoush really good plus the usual, falafel (nice and feathery) lebni etc. You can call ahead for pickup, advisable because otherwise you have to wait while Hadia cooks it: 818-344-1687, its near Corbin on the north side of the street in a strip mall where Copper Chimney the Indian restaurant has a spot.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ZoeZ
                            e
                            epop RE: ZoeZ Nov 29, 2008 11:30 AM

                            can't wait to try Hadia's. good find

                          2. Mari RE: Mari Dec 3, 2008 07:17 AM

                            Wow - thanks everyone for your input! You are so lucky to have so many choices in SoCal. I might try Skaf's Grill or Sham, or maybe both. I was introduced to Sunin by a Lebanese friend (born and raised) and he loved that place, so that's how I discovered it.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Mari
                              k
                              kevin RE: Mari Dec 3, 2008 09:29 AM

                              visited sunnin a couple days ago, and it's as good as allways. i tried a new puff pastry dish (new to me at least) stuffed with seasoned ground beef, onions, and tomatoes, and of courses the pine nuts that seems to garnish most of the dishes here. definitely very good stuff.

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