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Best Middle Eastern in West LA?

My girlfriend and I are really, really hungry. We need a place that is both unique in it's own way, and can satisfy. Preferably West LA/Santa Monica area.

Authentic, low-moderately expensive is the range we're in. Suggestions?

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  1. Sunnin (Lebanese) on Westwood is good (although they don't appear to have opened in their new building with parking on the East side of the street). It's pretty low-ish expensive. For that matter, there are the 2 Bella Pitas on/in Westwood, which are very tiny (more to-go than sit down), but have very good falafel and more.

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    Sunnin Lebanese Cafe
    1779 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

    Bella Pita
    960 Gayley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024

    1. shamshiri grill on westwood blvd north of santa monica blvd.
      the best price/quality and price/quantity deal in town, imho

      1 Reply
      1. re: westsidegal

        I had a totally satisfying lunch at Shamshiri a couple of days ago -- good, warm homemade flatbread, a refreshing lemony shirazi salad, the lamb koobideh which was nicely charred and well-seasoned, good grilled vegetables, and a huge mound of tender rice. Great value at $11 with a good tip.

      2. Alcazar Express: corner of Wellworth & Westwood

        Shaherzad, also on Westwood (is Persian included under the aegis of "Middle Eastern")?

        3 Replies
        1. re: J.L.

          I like Shamshiri Grill for overall quality. Sunnin is good if you order the right things (I like the chicken kebab plate with that killer garlic sauce).

          Is Alcazar Express open now? How does it stack up to the original Valley location?

          Make sure to get Persian ice cream afterwards!

          1. re: J.L.

            I am sure the quality of the food is the same, yet I also expect the menu to be a reduced version of the Encino location.
            http://www.al-cazar.com/pressrelease.htm

            1. re: carter

              Thanks - I like the rambling press release, especially the part about the owner being a pop singer. =)

          2. sham on santa monica near lincoln syrian/lebanese

            gaby's on venice near motor or washington west of lincoln

            1. I really like King's Kabob on Sawtelle and Sepulveda in Culver City. It's really a little nook of a place, but they have great salads and awesome gyros and shawerma. I don't know if you're looking for more of a sit down place, because this is really casual. You can sit in their coffee shop next door and chill while they bring your order. Not much atmosphere, but a great food find for a really good price! I also like their hummus and dolmas...yum!

              http://talk.2itch.com

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              King's Kabob
              5500 Sawtelle Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

              2 Replies
              1. re: kushnerom

                i only at at kings kabab once, and will never go back.

                i would have been happy to have even mediocre middle-eastern food so close to me.
                sadly, the food did not even come up to that standard.

                certainly this food stand is absolutely NOT a destination place.

                1. re: westsidegal

                  It's too bad you had bad food here.... I know alot of locals who love it! I've only had good times here (but mainly for takeaway food).

              2. The only one worth eating at is Alcazar.

                7 Replies
                1. re: epop

                  Has anyone eaten at the Tunisian restaraunt on the North side of Venice Blvd just East of Robertson? I had a quick kabob lunch special there ($6.99) and it was fabulous - the chicken was marinated, flavorful and juicy. But I've lost their business card and can't remember the name - it starts with an A. But off the face of that lunch and seeing the Tunisian specials the chef was serving to his friends, the prospects are exciting. I mean it was FAR better kebab than Gaby's, Shamshiri, Sofra etc. I'll go back ASAP.

                  1. re: Jeryy

                    Where on Venice? A long time ago I got some merguez from a Halal butcher on Venice, maybe brought some harissa there too?

                    Alcazar Express is very nice. Their Shish Tawook was quite wonderful, not dried out at all. The lamb tongue "salad" was great. Very nice babaganoush and samboosik (sp?-meat pie things with pine nuts). Their falafel balls were salty, not so good to me. Also, their pita falls flat (literally, quite flat, not warm, actually sort of sweet tasting?). The pita triangles covered wtih a red sauce and onions that came with the chicken were quite flavorful, I would definitely return.

                    1. re: noshie

                      Read the post as to where it is - and it isn't a Halal butcher.

                    2. re: Jeryy

                      Sofra? I ate there once and thought it was solid, but unspectacular. Attached to a market.

                      1. re: mdpilam

                        I agree with your assessment of Sofra. They grill things just right but I'm always in want of more flavor out of their kabobs.

                      2. re: Jeryy

                        I think it's "Almaza Fine Mediterranean Cuisine." I've driven by it a few times. It's in the same shopping center as a Goodwill and (I think) a liquor store. No website that I can find.

                        Here's a review: http://www.campuscircle.com/review.cf...

                        Vital stats: 8905 W. Venice Blvd.
                        Suite #112
                        Los Angeles, CA 90034
                        (310) 280-9006

                        It sounds delicious and very affordable. I think I'll have to try it out soon. The review I found mentioned couscous – do you have any memories about that being available?

                        1. re: hhewitt

                          I went there for lunch a month or so ago. It was quite good, I would love to back if I'm in the area for lunch again. Good prices, quality meats, and you get a ton of food. And they have hookahs!

                    3. I've eaten at Flame on Westwood Blvd a few times, and all of the meals have been quite tasty. I really like their beef koobideh.

                      And follow the advice of TracyS, you must get some Persian ice cream. There's a very good ice cream shop called Saffron & Rose Ice Cream (also on Westwood Blvd).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pinpei

                        Actually, their cucumber flavored ice cream is mindblowingly good.

                      2. Best Chicken Kabob I've had is at Cafe Panini in Beverly Hills. It's Mediterranean. Chicken is incredibly succulent, very flavorful, not too salty.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: memerhee

                          I'll definatley check that out. Sounds amazing.

                        2. Alcazar Express on Westwood. No contest.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: a_and_w

                            Really? Better than Shamshiri? I will have to check this place out...

                            -----
                            Shamshiri Restaurant
                            19249 Roscoe Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324

                            1. re: vinosnob

                              I think so, though they're Lebanese, not Persian. Try the shish-taouk sandwich and some of their unbelievably creamy hummus. Also, free refills on the lemonade. I can't recommend them highly enough.

                              1. re: a_and_w

                                Sounds intriguing.

                                BTW, aren't Lebanon and Persia (Iran) located in the Middle East? :)

                                1. re: vinosnob

                                  Yes, but Shamshiri is primarily Persian while Alcazar is Lebanese. I love the Persian food at Shamshiri, but have been less impressed with general middle eastern offerings like hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel, shawarma, etc.

                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    I hear ya; was just pointing out that the OP was looking for "Middle Eastern" so all related cuisines apply.

                            2. re: a_and_w

                              Went again this weekend to Alcazar The place is addictive.

                              The baba ghanoush is so good that I am now unable to eat it anywhere else because I realize how mediocre it is at most places. Boreg cigars (dough wrapped in the shape of a cigar, filled with feta cheese and deep fried) was excellent. Rounded out with chicken kabob (succulent and not dried out), fried sardines special, and fattoush. This place rocks.

                              1. re: omotosando

                                Yes, I'm really impressed with how moist the chicken is there. Haven't tried the baba ghanoush but will definitely do so soon.

                                1. re: a_and_w

                                  How well do the kebabs travel? I want to take food home from Alcazar, about 15 minute drive. Sometimes I've found that kebabs from other places don't hold up well to reheating because they dry out and I actually would rather them lukewarm.

                                  1. re: js76wisco

                                    ask them to undercook them a bit and then put them in the oven at home...

                                    1. re: js76wisco

                                      My mom took our leftover chicken kabob home and had it the next day and said it was delicious. Make sure to get some garlic sauce and tahini to go as well.

                                2. re: a_and_w

                                  Unbelievable lamb's tongue salad - tasty everything including brains.The babaganouch and hummus were top rate and passed Mme Zoe's taste test as the best (so far) on the West side.

                                3. Another wonderful meal at Alcazar Express. This time in addition to the addictive baba ghanoush and fattoush, I had a great spicy white bean soup - very thick and perfect for the cooler weather.

                                  I would link to Alcazar Express so it would show up in the sidebar, but Chowhound seems to think there is only one Alcazar and that it is in Encino.

                                  Alcazar Express
                                  1303 Westwood Blvd.
                                  Los Angeles, CA 90024
                                  (310) 914-9777

                                  15 Replies
                                  1. re: omotosando

                                    Have you tried the Hummos Alcazar? I assume it's on the menu at Alcazar Express and it's awesome -- hummos with garlic and chili, and topped with fava beans.

                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                        Hey a_and_w and epop, seems like you guys are well versed with Alcazar. Thanks for the suggestion on under cooking the kebobs. I agree with you guys and think this is the best middle eatern/Lebanese/Persian food on Westwood. I'm going there again tonight for the hummus, falafel, chicken schwarma and baba ganoush. My question is I'm not a huge fan of the store bought pita they bring out, even though it is warm. If you leave it out for 5 minutes even under the napkin it dries out very quickly and becomes stale. Is there another type of pita or bread product that can be ordered used to scoop up hummus and baba and make falafel bites with?

                                        1. re: js76wisco

                                          I actually don't mind their pita, but I realize I'm in the minority. They can probably bring you a baguette, which they have for the sandwiches. BTW, does anyone know what brand of pita they're using and where I might buy it? As I say, I actually like how firm it is despite being so thin.

                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                            Thanks a_and_w. Not necessarily what I wanted to hear but another person I ate with at Alcazar also liked their pita. I think it'd be weird using a baguette.

                                          2. re: js76wisco

                                            I'm confused, can't imagine how it goes stale. I'd say take it out from under the napkin.

                                            I've never had that problem anywhere. You may not like pita?

                                            1. re: js76wisco

                                              Hmmn, I have to agree that the pita is a weak link at Alcazar. I try to look at it on the bright side - keeps the calories down for me.

                                              1. re: omotosando

                                                What other bread are people used to being served at Arabic restaurants?

                                                My waistline wishes I agreed with you, Omatosando.

                                                1. re: epop

                                                  It is an odd phenomenon. I think when left out for 10 minutes or so the pita takes on a very weird texture and consistency. It goes from warm and maleable to a very stale like consistency. I would have expected it to become more crunchy.

                                                  The pita/bread offerings are Flame and Sherhezad are much better and retain their quality for longer periods of time.

                                                  I guess I could also eat faster while the pita is hot.

                                                  1. re: js76wisco

                                                    ..."It goes from warm and maleable to a very stale like consistency"...

                                                    Sort of like playing - Beat the Clot.

                                                    1. re: js76wisco

                                                      Not good. Does this happen when you leave it out? Or you can ask them to toast the bread well-done and that way it won't become weird.

                                                      1. re: epop

                                                        It happens after a long period of time. The situation can be easily combated by asking for fresh bread but even when it's warm I find the pita at Alcazar to be only serviceable. This requires great dedication but I might start making 2 stops - 1 at Alcazar for hummus, falafel and schwarma and another stop at Flame for their yogurt sauce and freshly made pita.

                                            2. re: Jwsel

                                              I have tried the spicy hummos at Alcazar Express, but I think I still prefer the hummus at Sunnin (but not the rest of the food).

                                              Was at Alcazar Express for lunch on Monday. Totally empty. They now have a valet - obviously to help with the parking problem. I hope this restaurant finds its audience. It is so hard to find good moderately priced food on the Westside - it would be a shame if Alcazar Express didn't make it.

                                              P.S. Creme caramel for dessert really good.

                                              1. re: omotosando

                                                They're open on Monday? People may be confused because the website says Tuesday through Sunday. Anyway, I share your concern because the place was empty when I last visited. But when I spoke with the waiter, he assured me they're doing good business, especially on the weekends.

                                                1. re: a_and_w

                                                  Yup, Alcazar Express is open for lunch on Monday. I didn't check Alcazar's website, but just assumed they were open 7 days a week and moseyed on over for lunch and they were open, albeit empty.

                                                  Hopefully, the valet will help their business, although I easily found parking on the street. My friend who met me for lunch tried to park in the CVS lot, but they wouldn't let her even if she paid, but they directed her to the public library behind the CVS and she parked there. You just walk into the library afterwards and have them validate your parking ticket.

                                          3. Baran on Westwood south of Santa Monica Blvd is excellent. 6 of us went a week ago and had a feast for $19 per person all in. The best Persian food I have had in LA this year, and specifically better than both Shamshiri and Javan.

                                            -----
                                            Shamshiri Restaurant
                                            19249 Roscoe Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324

                                            Baran Restaurant
                                            1916 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: Senor Popusa

                                              Baran was great around its opening 2+ years ago, but their kebab has slid dwonhill a bit lately...

                                              -----
                                              Baran Restaurant
                                              1916 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                              1. re: J.L.

                                                Slid downhill fast, more than a bit.

                                                1. re: epop

                                                  I thought the Koobideh (sp?) was quite good on my recent visit. which persian restaurants do you prefer in the area?

                                                  1. re: Senor Popusa

                                                    Javan, Shaherzad, Darya

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

                                                    1. re: J.L.

                                                      None of the above. Save it for Raffi in Glendale. I have not had the koobideh at Baran though. Once in a while the Kabob Barg at Shaherzad is fine, like JL suggests, but sometimes the wrong texture.

                                                      I would probably recommend a kabob at Alcazar instead, in that area, though it is not a persian kabob and thus an entirely different flavor.

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

                                                      Baran Restaurant
                                                      1916 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                                      1. re: epop

                                                        If the original post asked for all of L.A., then Raffi's would also be my answer in a heartbeat.

                                                        BUT... OP said "Preferably West LA/Santa Monica area".