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good middle eastern on Westwood?

Hey Chowhounds,

I am taking a friend to lunch next week and she wanted middle eastern - doesn't have to be fancy, just tasty. I used to go to Shamshirri, but I just read some reviews and it seems the place has gone downhill. Would love any other suggestions for someplace that won't be hard to get seated at lunch.

Thanks!

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  1. Sunnin for general middle eastern or Bella Pita if you just want falafel. Another place to consider is Atarri Sandwiches, which is Persian but a lot of fun for lunch.

    6 Replies
    1. re: a_and_w

      Agreed on Bella Pita and Attari sandwiches.

      Bella Pita is the best falafel I've had, always made up fresh. They have another location somewhere on Westwood blvd north of Pico, too.

      Attari is very casual, but the sandwiches are quite good. Not as mind-blowing as Bella Pita, IMHO.

      -----
      Attari Sandwich Shop
      1388 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

      Bella Pita
      960 Gayley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024

      1. re: hhewitt

        Interesting...I personally would rate Attari above Bella Pita. My mind was blown by the kookoo sabzi sandwich and the ash soup. Plus, I love that little courtyard, though it can get crowded.

        1. re: a_and_w

          i concur with a_and_w,
          to me, attari is superior to bella pita.
          in addition to the asch soup and the koo koo sandwich, imho, attari's shirazi salad is superior to that of shamshiri and those of most of the other persian restaurants in the neighborhood.

          1. re: westsidegal

            Well, I wasn't talking about ambiance, I'll admit Attari has much more of that. The courtyard at Attari is lovely.

            By my memory (it's been a while since I've been to Attari), Bella Pita does come out as the cheaper meal. That's usually what I personally gravitate to.

            1 Falafel Pita < 1 sandwich + 1 soup

            1. re: hhewitt

              if cheap is what you want, then leave westwood and go to the hungry pocket on pico in santa monica.
              a terrific, freshly-made falafal sandwich is about $3 to $4 irrc. be sure to get some of their fantastic homemade piquante sauce

              1. re: westsidegal

                Hmmm... good to know for my travels. For day-to-day, Bella Pita is within walking distance of my office... but piquante sauce sounds great!

    2. Middle Eastern... Lebanese? Egyptian? Israeli?

      I guess you mean Persian, by your post. Any particular cuisine your & your friend looking for?

      3 Replies
      1. re: J.L.

        I think most of the middle eastern I've had is Lebanese or Persian. But I'm interested in Egyptian and have never had Israeli if you'd like to suggest something! Thank you so much!

        1. re: Lynndsey Rigberg

          Egyptian: Cafe Dahab, on Sawtelle, just south of SM Blvd. Try their Fuul.

          Lebanese: Byblos is OK. The bellydancer factor is there on weekends.

          Persian: Javan (on SM Blvd.) or Shaherzad (good bread)

          1. re: J.L.

            Byblos is actually open? the subterranean place? What's up with that place?

            I ate at Shaherzad recently. I frequent Javan (and Darya) because I'm so close but Shaherzad is WAY better. The koobideh (ground, spiced) meats are made with much more care and their bademjan is glorious. The bread, as you mention, made on site in a tandoor, is legendary.

            -----
            Shaherzad
            1422 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

      2. I recently went to Shamshiri and the food was excellent. The service, on the other hand, was possibly the worst I've had in quite some time. In any case, if the service isn't too important to you and you know what you're getting into, I'd say Shamshiri is still pretty good.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mrshankly

          i had my first disappointing lunch at shamshiri last week. (this place is on my normal rotation)
          i'm hoping it was a fluke.
          the shirazi salad was not as fresh as it normally is; the cucumber had a strange sogginess and a tranlucency that it should not have had and normally does not have.
          also, the falafal, which i normally adore, wasn't served crispy-from-the-fryer as it normally is: it seemed like it had been waiting to be served. . . .

          i will go back next week to see if this was a fluke or whether this is the new normal.

          1. re: westsidegal

            Shamshiri was posted under "listage" about a month ago on la.eater.com which I think (?) means it's been put up for sale. Anyway, I read elsewhere that they've cut back on staff to save money which is why their service has been so slow, or almost nonexistant, over the last several months.

        2. I've enjoyed Shamshiri - still find it good. Enjoy the lamb neck.

          For WLA, Javan (SM & Butler), Darya (SM & Bundy) are both quite good as well. I prefer bread at Javan. Cafe Dahab (egyption) is ok -

          Canary has some interesting items but not yet tried it yet. On Westwood I believe.
          Sunnin is ok. Flame is simple but gets job done for good price.

          I've heard Byblos is good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: travelingmansoul

            Try Sham in Santa Monica for Arabic food sometime to see how it compares.

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

          2. Does anyone know if they ever opened up that Alcazar Express in Westwood?

            5 Replies
            1. re: a_and_w

              I walked by it on Monday, and the windows were still covered by paper.

              The easy solution is to simply call the Encino Alcazar and ask.

                1. re: a_and_w

                  Made it to Alcazar Westwood today for lunch and was really impressed! Ordered a shish-taouk sandwich, which comes with hummus, bread, olives, and pickles on the side. The chicken breast was well marinated and juicy, and I loved the inclusion of french fries on the sandwich, which is something I don't often see at Middle Eastern places in LA. The lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles therein all tasted fresh, and the garlic sauce had a nice bite. All in all, a small but well executed sandwich.

                  The real revelation was the side of hummus, which was wonderfully creamy with a perfect balance of tahini and olive oil. Most places either use too much tahini (Sham) or too much lemon (Sunnin) for my taste. I still haven't tried Hummus Grill, Carousel, or Marouch, but Alcazar's hummus was the best I've had thus far. Even the bread was perfect, thin yet substantial enough for scraping the last traces of hummus from the bowl.

                  About my only complaints were the high price ($15 for a small sandwich and side of hummus, drink with refills, plus tip) and the slightly spacey service. In my view, however, these minor qualms were easily overwhelmed by the quality of the food.

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    oh, coo, so it's open noiw, sounds good this joint replaced danube, correct????

                2. Sunnin is usually me and my wife's go-to option for Lebanese-style M.E. food (personally, Persian doesn't appeal to me as much). The food there is dependably tasty though not necessarily spectacular. The ambiance is lacking but it is a small spot; I generally recommend getting take out from there if you live close enough by.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: odub

                    When is Sunnin opening up in their new location across the street, in the former Earth, Wind & Flour space?

                    1. re: nosh

                      Alcazar is 100x better than Sunnin.

                      1. re: epop

                        Two problems with the new Alcazar: 1 -- parking. 2 -- prices.

                        1. re: nosh

                          is itmuch more expensive than the one in the valley?

                          1. re: kevin

                            I stuck my head in about a week ago to look at the menu -- lunch specials started at $9.95.

                            1. re: nosh

                              They have sandwiches that are cheaper -- most expensive was the shish taouk I had at $8.95. I think they're cheaper still if you get them to go but haven't confirmed.

                            2. re: kevin

                              It is the same menu. Yes, prices aren't dirt cheap but this is excellent food.

                              1. re: epop

                                is there an online menu of it?

                                1. re: kevin

                                  http://www.al-cazar.com/menu.html

                                  I believe the sandwiches are more expensive if you eat in.

                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    Sunnin for lunch, elsewhere for dinner

                    2. I had dinner there this weekend and was favorably impressed except with the pita and olives. The kebabs were all excellent, well-spiced and came with a choice of sides (rice, cracked wheat, fries or veggies) and a dish of garlic sauce. The little beef and pine nut filled pastries were also quite good. The pita, though, was surprisingly mediocre (other than the little cheeseless pizza-like triangles that accompanied the kebabs, which were not bad). The little dish of olives was nice but a but harsh-tasting.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: New Trial

                        That's how some of us love olives. I eat barrels per year, literally.

                        1. re: New Trial

                          I was wondering what the ambiance is like at Alcazar on Westwood. I seem to recall that the old Danube space was tiny, so I am guessing that it is more of a place to grab a quick bite than to lounge around over a leisurely dinner in a nice ambiance. Correct?

                          1. re: omotosando

                            I walk by regularly. Nice tables & chairs (tablecloth!), dimmed lights - I think they're trying...

                            1. re: omotosando

                              There is apparently a back/side room as well that I saw a few diners disappear into. The space is spare but clean (there are tablecloths, music on the speakers and art on the wall) and there is a definite effort to make diners feel comfortable and welcome.

                              1. re: New Trial

                                Finally made it to Alcazar Express. I think they did a nice job with the space. The parking is horrendous. Hope that doesn't drive them out of business. We just had a quick bite. The hummus was good. I thought the muhammara was too oily, or perhaps it was just the quality of the olive oil wasn't good enough. Chicken livers were overcooked. Still, I think it is a great addition to the neighborhood, but I wish the parking situation was better.

                                P.S. The mint tea with fresh mint was a nice touch.

                                1. re: omotosando

                                  The neighborhood street parking adjacent to Alcazar (with free 2hr. parking Mon-Sat, all day Sunday) on Ashton, Wellworth, & Rochester are plentiful, and the walk from those locations (max.) is 2 blocks. Don't think just Westwood Blvd. when you are looking for parking.

                                  1. re: J.L.

                                    Went again tonight ro Alcazar Express. I hope Chowhounders will come out and support this place. It was not very busy on a Saturday night. It is not the best of locations and I think perhaps they need better signage.

                                    Anyway, the baba ghannouj was excellent - very smoky. One of the better baba ghannoujs I've ever had. The fattoosh was also excellent. The hummus was good, although I think I prefer the hummus at Sunnin. The shish tawook was juicy and not dried out like I find the chicken at the most of the Persian restaurants on Westwood Blvd. It came with a very addictive garlic sauce.

                                    Anyway, I realize they just opened, but I hope more people discover this place soon.

                                    1. re: omotosando

                                      >>The shish tawook was juicy and not dried out like I find the chicken at the most of the Persian restaurants on Westwood Blvd.<<

                                      I tend to stick with the lamb - it never disappoints...

                                      1. re: omotosando

                                        The garlic sauce at Alcazar Express is better than Zankou's. Their "dessert meze" is unbelievable as well.

                                        1. re: J.L.

                                          Yes, I've never thought much of the garlic sauce at Zankou. Maybe the original Zankou was good, but the one in West L.A. is dreadful.

                                          Tell me about the dessert mezze. I always thought Middle Eastern desserts were a little funky, but perhaps I could be converted.

                                          1. re: omotosando

                                            These desserts in the middle east are perfect. Here they are sugary reproductions, for the most part.

                                            1. re: epop

                                              oh, you mean we can't get anything that comes even somewhat close to it in the state?

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                Here and there I've had them at some people's homes, but even those are rare. People have lost it. The quality of butter declines and people add more and more sugar to desserts. The same goes for French desserts.

                                                Close are some of these:
                                                http://www.hallab.com/

                                            2. re: omotosando

                                              i think there was 10001 and one nights dessert that was around 70 dollars and including a dozen of the restaurant's signature desserts.

                                              I'm not really a fan of bahklava, and semolina cake desserts though.

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                Here's the "1001 Nights" item near the bottom on their website's "desserts" portion of their menu:

                                                http://www.al-cazar.com/desserts.html