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Simon's Cafe, Sherman Oaks

g
georgiaw Feb 23, 2009 08:18 AM

I appreciate all the hard work that goes into making good food and running a restaurant, so it takes a lot for me to be so grumpy with a meal that I would feel compelled to complain. After reading about Simon's Cafe in the food section of the LA Times, I made a reservation. Two other fairly recent Times recommendation that have have proved brilliant again and again (food, service, experience) are Puor Sabor in Van Nuys and Mariscos Los Arcos, in Van Nuys and Canoga Park. To begin with we were told that corkage was $10 per bottle only if we had a four course meal, which actually meant soup or salad and an entree per person. We began the meal with a $14.95 appetizer sampler of a very small dollop each of baba and hummos, a few falafals, fewer olives, none of which were distinguished, we also had to ask for pita. We had a Greek salad that for the $8 or $9 had a minimum of lettuce, feta, tomato, and olives with a tasteless barely there dressing (for a great Greek salad go to Cici's Cafe in Tarzana). I am against super-sized portions, but do want a proper sized one. Upon ordering lamb chops that were listed at $17.95, we were told that tonight they were French lamb chops and were $2 more - we wondered if this happened every night. Got them anyway and they were grilled basic lamb chops served with plain steamed veggies. Simon made a point of saying that other restaurants charged $30 for lamb chops, but perhaps for $30 you'd have a few more, presented better, maybe with a balsamic reduction . Both the harira soup and beef tangine, specialties of the Moroccan cuisine were flavorless and under-spiced. The highly touted merquez sausage was very nicely spiced dish, but unfortunately was served with frozen fries. Presentation was underwhelming and service was lackluster. We were very disappointed.

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    howard81 Feb 23, 2009 05:27 PM

    I'm sorry you had a bad experience. That's not at all like the wonderful times I've had at Simon's Cafe. I eat there often because 1) the prices are reasonable, 2) the food is fresh and delicious, 3) and Simon is a charming host. I suggest you give it another try. I read the Times review and I couldn't agree more!

    10 Replies
    1. re: howard81
      k
      kevin Feb 23, 2009 10:15 PM

      i really liked the food there. but yeah, it is pricey, the appetizer plate does seem expensive, "dollops" is an appropriate moniker, but even thought it was just dollops, they were very tasty dollops, especially the almost lighter than air falafels, and the spicey tomato relish. the bestilla was a little heavy but still delicious in it's own right, and the better deal since it's such a huge portion, and the merguez sausages are truly awesome and quite the sight to behold. the sweetness, and creeping utlra-spicyness of the homemade Moroccan harissa hot sauce was truly out of this world, that hot sauce was something esle.

      1. re: howard81
        streetgourmetla Feb 24, 2009 11:08 AM

        I will also agree to disagree with this review, and happily concur with the Times article.Price?Really?The most affordable Morroccan in town,fresh food cooked with care, and a charming host.This is my go to Morroccan restaurant in Los Angeles.

        The appetizers are amazing but different from other styles of cooking, so maybe you're expecting something else.This is quality Morroccan food, the quality lamb needs no reduction, whether balsamic or in price.Fries are not really why we go to Simon's.Check out the prices and food at Marrakesh,Dar Maghreb,etc, then compare value and quality with Simon's.

        1. re: streetgourmetla
          k
          kevin Feb 24, 2009 01:41 PM

          That is very true.

          If you did go to those other Moroccan joints and you happen to share an appetizer, order an entree each, a dessert each, and a soda it would at leat run you what, 16+25+8+3

          60 per, whereas at simon's you can get out for 35-40 per for much better food.

          streetgourmetla, what do you think of the tiramisu, and chocolate mousse desserts at simon's have you also tried the strange stewed eggplant dessert, which is very similar to persian quince chutney jam.

          1. re: kevin
            streetgourmetla Feb 24, 2009 10:40 PM

            Oohh, eggplant dessert? Next time I will save room for these, especially the eggplant.Will get back there soon.

            1. re: streetgourmetla
              k
              kevin Feb 25, 2009 08:00 AM

              have you tried the tiramisu and chocolate mousse?

              also, simon is a really nice guy who likes to take about his food, and is chef/waiter/proprietor. a great place, but it isn't cheap, this is not a street side falafel parlor. even though the falafels are some of the best, if not the best that i have ever had.

              1. re: kevin
                streetgourmetla Feb 25, 2009 09:04 AM

                Haven't had these desserts, but will.Simon is a kick.Our group really enjoyed his hospitality and food tremendously the last time I was there.

          2. re: streetgourmetla
            c
            carter Feb 25, 2009 06:28 PM

            No wonder it is your go-to restaurant - you did not mention Chameau or Tagine and they are infinitely better than Marrakesh-Dar, etal, and less expensive.
            Chameau on Fairfax and Tagine on Robertson just north of Wilshire will change your mind.
            I live in sherman oaks, yet still have not eaten at Simon's. Maybe one day, but the satisfaction received at both Chameau and Tagine is so high that it would have trouble competing, I would think.

            1. re: carter
              k
              kevin Feb 25, 2009 09:11 PM

              i always wanted to try chameau but i have not yet. it does sound really good, is it on fairfax near canter's deli, i remember it used to be located in Silverlake in the space on Hyperion that used to house one of my favorite restaurants, Paio, and then the Comfort Cafe, and now a burger joint.

              1. re: carter
                a
                archer Feb 26, 2009 11:53 PM

                I love Chameau; it's one of my favorite restaurants (have not been to Tagine yet). It's not fair to compare it to Simon's though; the restaurants serve two very different purposes. Chameau is fairly pricey; the menu's more extensive & elaborate; I associate it w/ a more special night out. Simon's is a casual, delicious & much lower-priced Mediterranean cafe, a drop-in neighborhood restaurant. You can go in to nibble on some appetizers, soup and/or have something heartier such as his lamb tagine (which I find ample enough to split if I'm also having appetizers). Simon's is well worth trying when you're in the mood for a neighborhood cafe experience, but it does not offer (or attempt to offer) the type of dining experience of Chameau.

                1. re: carter
                  streetgourmetla Feb 27, 2009 09:47 AM

                  What Kevin said.All that's left for you is your neighborhood Simon's Cafe.Excellent affordable Morroccan in our 'hood.

            2. t
              the nasty chef Feb 23, 2009 08:27 PM

              I agree-I was very underwhelmed by the over-priced appetizer sampler and the bistilla was quite unintresting and overpriced as well.We tried the vegitable cous cous-tasty but not great.The merquez sausage was very good and I thought,fairly priced.The lamb tagine had alot of flavor but the meat itself was rather chewey.
              I always expect Moroccan food to really grab a hold of me and dazzle my taste buds.
              I would give Simon's Cafe a grade of B

              1. lil mikey Feb 25, 2009 06:01 PM

                Like the others, I'm very surprised you had this experience. I've eaten there many times and I've never had a bad meal or a bad experience with Simon. He's never been anything short of charming.

                Dishes to have here are the couscous royale and the tagines. They are very flavorful and you get a LOT of food.

                1 Reply
                1. re: lil mikey
                  k
                  kevin Feb 25, 2009 09:11 PM

                  yes, the appetizer plate might be small but oh so delicious, esp. those darn falafels.

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