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Sep 18, 2009 04:33 PM

Hayat's Kitchen:Serious Lebanese home cooking returns, but don't call it a comeback

More pics at

Hassan Shatila and wife,Hayat Fahed, have been making great Lebanese food in the Valley since 1982. You may recall their Cafe Mediterranean restaurant in Toluca Lake. Michelle Huneven of the LA Times, had given them a great review back in 1990.

Cafe Mediterranean became an entertainment industry favorite back then and at one point they'd expanded the size of their restaurant and installed a buffet to meet the needs of the hustle and bustle of the studio lunch crowd.

After 18 years in business, they closed and moved on to other things in 2000, until about 5 months ago when they resurfaced as Hayat's Kitchen.There were catering events in between but they never stopped cooking, and the food is better than ever.

Hassan and Hayat have been in the business for more than 30 years, Hassan is the baker and Hayat is the chef. Their food is home style Lebanese,straightforward and deeply delicious.They are tucked in the back of a strip mall at the corner of Burbank Bl. and Vineland, sharing a lot with Colo's Argentine meat market, a banquet hall, a smoke shop, and a nice little produce market where the register often shuts down a moment for a shot of Armenian coffee.

The cold appetizers here are dreamy,and delightfully in balance. The vegetarian combo is a fine way to sample Hayat's craft. And the kibbie nayeh(raw meat)? I've been looking for an equivalent to the one they used to have at Pasha years ago, and this is it.Just the delicious result of fresh ingredients and a sage hand. The fatoosh salad is a delicious, rustic home style salad, lightly tart with lime, bracing, and pure.

Fresh baked fatayers of cheese, spinach, and safiha(meat)are perfect savories to start your meal.

Makanek, little spicy homemade sausages are crisp, complex bites of pork well suited for stuffing in a tear of pita. These are lovely.

The foul mudammas(fava and garbanzos in garlic)is garlic intensive and served warm. The combination of soft beans, warmth, garlic, and oily richness surpass decadence.

The foul so delicious, but the fatteh bi laban is a whole other delight to the senses.It combines the textures of crisp toasted pita, grilled meat, creamy yogurt, and crunchy pine nuts. This dish seems like interesting enough from the menu's description, but seeing it up close is a foodie lotto win.

Hayat's meats have come off the grill everytime I've dined there,consistently tender, juicy and seasoned just right. I especially love the filet mignon and chicken.The grilled plates come with grilled tomatoes, onions, or maybe a jalapeno. It's whatever Hayat has handy.Just surprise me.Fresh, raw onion and golden fries round out your meal.

The usual photos of Lebanon are posted in this humble space, with a comfortable outdoor patio set up for fair weather dining and the hookah set.It's very charming and gets a good crowd of the local Lebanese community, and some friends from Cafe Mediterranean as they gradually are rediscovering their long lost chef and baker.

Be sure to ask what the special of the day is before you order. They're not posted, perhaps someday, but those in the know will be well rewarded. On one evening they had kafta bi ssanieh,a Lebanese meatloaf so lovely from Hayat's oven.

A strong Lebanese coffee is always a pleasant way to cap your meal,Hayat's makes a nice dense version make with quality grinds.

But, do try Hassan's finger baklava, maybe the best I've ever had. He has a full dessert menu, all treats are baked from scratch on the premises. Deep flavors permeate these desserts, sans the usual insipid sugariness.

Skaf's and Hayat's are both neighborhood restaurants for me, and I, like so many, adore Skaf's Grill. While I can't put my finger on it,they are both great restaurants, I find myself coming back to Hayat's again and again. In some things like grilling they match up well, but in others....the home cooking that we all crave from the gifted women cooks throughout the world's kitchens is right here at Hayat's Kitchen, a new treasure to grace the North Hollywood culinary scene.

Hayat's Kitchen
11009 Burbank Blvd.
Suite 117
North Hollywood, CA 91601
818) 761-4656
Open 10AM-9PM

Catering available too!

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  1. OMG! I was just reminiscing with some co-workers about how we loved Cafe Med. The baklava and the lentil soup were the best ever. My mouth would burn from the lemon in almost everything, but it was so good. This is awesome news, thank you.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gnarlex

      I don't remember knowing Cafe Mediterranean when it was here, but I guess I get a second chance now. The lentils sound great, perhaps they will do it as a special, or I will ask.

      Please report back if you go.

    2. what other desserts do they serve off hand?

      do they have any beef sausages on the menu?

      how are the prices?


      5 Replies
      1. re: kevin

        I think the dessert options vary, but they have baklawa, knafee, namoora,the fingers,shaebieh, kataif, and ghouribeh on their menu. Don't know what all these are, Hassan usually suggests something, I just enjoy and ask no questions, always delicious.

        Kebab plates are around 10 bucks, salads and maza are in the $4-$6 range, $8.95 for the vege combo.A bunch of sandwiches under $5.Hot appetizers are in the $4 to $8 range for the hummus with meat or the fatteh bi laban.

        They do have a soujok(armenian beef sausage).

        The other day, 5 of us shared the foul, vege combo, mixed kebab, 5 fatayers, and drinks for about $13 each. Not bad at all.

        1. re: streetgourmetla

          that's pretty cheap for a sitdown rwestaurant and good to boot.

          i'm a little sick of sunnin, skaf's, and couple others so somewhere new is always refreshing.

          1. re: kevin

            Make sure to ask about the specials Kevin, they're not posted. I just found out about them on my last visit. The fattah bi laban is amazing as is the foul mudammas.

            1. re: streetgourmetla

              someone also mentioned this joint a week or couple (?) weeks ago, anyone happen to have that link (i believe there was a menu attached too?)

              1. re: kevin

                That was LisaN. Here's the link and she has the menu on her attachments.

      2. I just had lunch here today. I was greeted like a member of the family. I ordered the Shish Tawook and while I was waiting, the waiter brought me a huge bowl of pickles, olives, peppers and pickled turnips. The food arrived shortly thereafter and the chicken was perfectly cooked, the rice, salad and hummus were all delicious. The garlic sauce was excellent as well. After a very satisfying meal, the waiter brought me complimentary finger baklava which was fantastic. This restaurant not only serves great food but the service was incredible. They certainly will see me again. Thanks for the recommendation.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rad818

          Thanks for reporting back rad818. You are right to highlight the service, it's like going to visit a restaurant where you are friends with the owners, great feeling.

        2. Went to get, oh, some hummus, or babaganoush, but no, you had to dangle today's special in front of me. So much for a light lunch. One of the best Lebanese meals ever, Kous At Warak Anab, braised then boiled beef ribs, with beef stuffed zucchini and beef stuffed dolma, also boiled in the broth.

          The dolmas are wrapped in bundle to keep them together and the zucchini has beef, Lebanese spices, and rice.The cool yogurt, a perfect complement.

          Hayat rules!