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Mezza - Chow Alert for Excellent Lebanese Cuisine in the Southern Hemisphere of the Westside

Attention Westside Chowhounds who are frazzled from the traffic nightmares while seeking Chow-worthy Lebanese in Glendale/Burbank, the San Fernando Valley and Westwood: Excellent Lebanese cuisine has arrived in Culver City!!

No - great Lebanese and the lower Westside is not an oxymoron - at least no longer. The ever-alert and adventurous poster Dommy! added a post this afternoon to this current thread titled, "A Chow-worthy Neighborhood to Move to."


Mentioning just a brief blurb about Mezza in Culver City, and adding links to J. Gold's article from yesterday's LA Weekly (totally missed it), as well as to one of her always-appreciated photo streams, I knew it had to be something really good. We immediately dropped our plans for Torihei in Torrance and turned the car east, and we were well-rewarded.

Mezza has been open for exactly "two weeks and two days." The proprietor Jake's mantra for this evening as diner after diner kept blurting out, "Wow, the _____ is really good - how long have you been here?"

The five of us (three adults, two kids) shared the fried cauliflower & eggplant, kibbi, sambousek, two orders of falafel, and battah harra for apps, the tabouli, the kafta kabob and the shrimp kabob with hummus, spicy hummus and more tabouli for entrees, and the baklava and ashta for dessert. I wanted the jalab (jallab) but they had a run on this all day and were unfortunately out.

The requisite pickled vegetables and olives are presented once the food starts to role out. The olives are not as bitter as some places and the turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage and onions are just tart and seasoned well. The pita is the thinner type if you're familiar with Alcazar's. Nothing stellar but still fresh. I think this style of pita is meant to be a foil to greater things around the table.

Everything we ordered hit high on the taste meter, save the eggplant - it was pretty good but was overshadowed by the fried cauliflower. The cauliflower alone made our visit worth it. The seasoning truly highlighted the cauliflower's nuttiness which were fried just enough to give a slightly crispy texture on the outside, but still steamy and fragrant on the inside.

The tabouli was so good and perfectly balanced that we ordered it again for our side options on the two entrees, along with the hummus and spicy hummus, which were perfectly seasoned, not salty, and highlighted with generous amounts of lemon. The tabouli was wonderful.

The kibbi was crunchy, not oily and the meat filling was so savory. This we devoured very quickly, but the sambousek, tasty morsels of minature meat-filled turnovers were gone in no time. A little squeeze of lemon on these were fantastic as well.

The battah harra appeared a bit oily but between the seasoning (gotta love that garlic), the perfect saute and the brightness of the lemon juice, my little eight-year old was fighting off the rest of us in order to defend her "square lemony french fries."

Like parts is parts from hardware store to hardware store, falafels are falafels at so many Mediterranean places, but Mezza's really caught us off guard. These are perfectly fried, no old oily smell, and there's something about the soft warm inside that would scratch the meat itch for vegetarians for some reason - it did for me. The tahini is very lemony (as is the general rule in Lebanese cuisine), and that tinge of acid truly balances out the complex with the more basic flavors of their falafel.

The shrimp kabob had a nice char on it. We initially feared that they would be dry and tough as rubber but the skills of the chef were confirmed. Still succulent and sweet inside - the char added another smokey dimension to the perfectly seasoned shrimp. The dish came with a creamy garlic condiment - I don't know the name but is not uncommon in Mediterranean cuisine. Creamy garlic and shrimp - what a perfect match. Jake (the young proprietor) said that it is made in-house and also is served with their fish kabobs and chicken tawook kabobs. This condiment has all the good in garlic without the harsh bite. It's creamy, a little tangy and kinda sums the basic aspects of Lebanese cuisine: Lemon, garlic, olive oil and serious deliciousness.

The kafta kabob was amazing as well. As J. Gold described it in his write-up, there's something else completely different going on in its bold seasoning. I can't put my finger on the aromatics, but it's an amazing version of kafta.

The baklava was sweet, but not achingly sweet. The syrup was pure in taste - no weird aftertaste one gets with cheap versions - and the fresh crushed pistachios added another dimension to the dessert.

They slipped a little on the ashta. The rosewater infused cream came on a dish garnished with strawberries, bananas, mint and pine nuts, but they forgot to drizzle on the syrup. I say they slipped a little because we forgot to mention whether we wanted syrup or honey - they just forgot to ask or confirm. Nonetheless, we slid spoonfuls of the ashta in the syrup and pistatchios from the baklava and all was well. A very nice dessert.

I can't say enough about the kitchen's chef. His name is difficult for me to even think about pronouncing but he is a magician. He is such a master with the matrix of grill, bold, light, balance and technique that just about everything was amazing. My diminutive 81-year old mom accompanied us. She normally won't touch cuisines from the Mediterranean because they can be so heavy and bold in so many ways, but she very much enjoyed the food as well - even the kafta kabob. We didn't tell her where we were going when we hijacked her or else she would have been tooth & nails all the way. :) Our goal was to attempt at expanding her relatively narrow culinary horizon, and I think we succeeded. If her thoroughly enjoying the meal isn't testimony enough to Mezza's likeability, then I give up. The End.


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  1. WOW!!! We have only gotten meals to go and I'm SO jealous of that pickle plate... Going back and actually plant my butt in the seats...

    Again, I'm SO glad you liked it... We were THRILLED when we saw this place pop up (We actually were getting some lunch to go from the weekly Sony Fancy Truck visit). They are working it really hard (in the front and back of the house)

    Anyway, funny you mention the Pita, because it's a point of contention in the Dommy and P. household. I LOVE it, because as you notice, it truly lets the ingredients shine. P. misses the pull and chew of the more bready type pita. But in the end, we agree that it's good because instead getting so full on Pita... you have more room in your tummy for all the great flavors that come with the plates...

    The Kefta soon!


    1 Reply
    1. re: Dommy

      I really enjoyed the pickles. Not so overly sour like some places, and the seasoning on the cauliflower, cabbage and onions was just enough to lead into the savory range. Olives in the Middle East cuisines can be really bitter - these olives were just bitter - more to my liking. We didn't ask for more pickles but I would guess you could. :) Can't thank you enough for this rec!

    2. I was so glad to see this place get a good review. After reading the JGold review I was intrigued since I work in the area. When I saw it going in, I really wanted it to be good.

      Thanks for such a detailed review.

      15 Replies
      1. re: bsquared2

        We hadn't been in Downtown Culver City for a while and didn't even realize this was going in. We truly enjoy food with ethnicity, so the outskirts of DTCC are normally more to our liking. Up until Mezza, the closest thing to Mediterranean in DTCC was Daphne's - not even in the same universe as Mezza. When we saw that Mezza was pretty dressed up relative to say, the original Sunnin location, our thoughts were, "It's either going to be mediocre Lowest Common Denominator food like Daphne's but with a pretty dress on, or maybe - just maybe - someone is making a serious effort in bringing a nice Lebanese dining experience to this area." I'm so glad our impressions were definitely of the latter, and hope you'll find this place worthy of your tastebuds.

        Dommy! really piqued my curiosity with her brief but enticing post. As you know, she's one of those well-respected Hounds who has a strong objectivity about places and dishes, so when she posted her excitement about the fried cauliflower, I clicked on her photo link, saw the photo and literally got up out of my chair and told the family that we had a change in plans. I sometimes think there are multiple Dommy!s because her and P. cover so much of the LA food terrain - on bikes even! :)

        1. re: bulavinaka

          Aww! Your compliments made our morning! Aside from eating, we also really love to cook, so we always appreciate those who go the extra mile professionally and love to tell people about them. :) I just wish I had more time to talk about more of the places here! Hopefully by May...

          Well aside from Daphne's there is Sofra, which is Turkish (which makes it unique in the region even!!). They advertise themselves as Kabob Express.... which is why you pass it all the time without even a bit of curiosity. I would describe it as more rustic than Mezza, a bit more heavier too. But they have a few specials that are really different... We really enjoyed their stuffed eggplant...



          1. re: Dommy

            We tend to think of Sofra's/Kabob Express as a quick bite place and not really a sit down and relax place. Will have to try their stuffed eggplant. Wife likes eggplant but is picky about it.

            1. re: Dommy

              We really like Sofra - the owner is always pleasant and checks to see how our meal is. But Mezza definitely changes the dynamics of our Mediterranean food fix. We will still enjoy Sofra, but probably more for a semi-quick takeout option. We drove by Sofra on the way home last night, and my thoughts were a bit nostalgic knowing that they will now have to take a back seat to Mezza.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                I actually really like Sofra as a sit down place, particularly on the patio in winter when I am visiting LA and enjoying the actuality of sunshine....so if Mezza is a step above, well, will have to visit it soon! Of course, now that my halal-abiding daughter has moved to North Hills, I no longer have as much motivation to seek out places with halal alternatives in Culver City. (and she is not going to be happy to hear that this place opened after she left).

                Time to explore those San Fernando Valley options you mention in the opening post...and thanks so much for this report!

                1. re: susancinsf

                  I'm sure your daughter is familiar with the mosque in Culver Ciity - it's a center for the Muslim community around here as well as being a beautiful and ornate building. Mezza is in a near-perfect position to attract people from the mosque after Friday prayer. Unless otherwise noted, the meat is halal.

                  For places in the SF Valley, try Hayat's and Skaf's in North Hollywood, Alcazar in Encino and Carnival in Sherman Oaks are Chow favs in the San Fernando Valley. If Israeli is a viable option, try Hummus Bar & Grill in Tarzana (great laffa bread, amazing hummus) and Itzik Hagidol in Encino. The SF Valley and the Burbank/Glendale area have large representative populations from the Middle East and beyond. A relatively new place I've been hearing a lot of positive feedback from is Mantee in Studio City (Armenian).

                  Hummus Bar & Grill is an easy drive from North Hills - they have a lot of outdoor seating in front of the restaurant. If you hit the place in the late afternoon close to sunset, it's a nice place to sit, as many will take in the warm weather while dining.

                  Alcazar is a little further east on Ventura - they also have some outdoor seating that is very nice in the late afternoon. Cheers! :)

          2. re: bsquared2

            Wow. Went there today for lunch. The Kafta Kabob was delicious. One of my new favorite places. I liked the fact that it really felt like home cooking.

            The waitress was very sweet and the owner was making the rounds making sure everybody was happy.

            1. re: bsquared2

              I think that sense of home cooking comes from the chef who J. Gold as well as the owner mentioned that he is from a mountainous more rural area of Lebanon. His take on this cuisine is in some ways familiar, and in some ways different. And that kafta kabob is a perfect example, as was pointed out in the LA Weekly article.

              I was surprised that the waitstaff on the night we went weren't from the Middle East, which wasn't an issue as they did have a pretty strong understanding of the menu items, were very gracious and attentive as well.

              It will be interesting if and when Mezza gets a beer & wine license. And please don't forget to try the ashta.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                I'm looking forward to digging a little deeper into the menu. It was funny, there was a buzz going around the office when they opened. To me, it has a really good "slot" in the neighborhood. Now I have my Ramen place, Carnitas place, Indian, Salad, Egg Salad sandwich....Who would have thought that Culver City would become such a hot spot.

                1. re: bsquared2

                  It really is a chow-worthy area, isn't it?

                  1. re: bsquared2

                    >>To me, it has a really good "slot" in the neighborhood.<<

                    No kidding. As the title of this post suggests - a serious take on Mediterranean cuisine has finally come south of Venice Blvd, and eating around Culver City just keeps getting better.

                      1. re: mdpilam

                        Taqueria Sanchez. I just ate there for lunch today. Their Carnitas has the right "crunch" for me. Lunch for about $8 (burrito, taco and a mexican coke). That's a good deal.

                        Taqueria Sanchez
                        4541 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                      2. re: bsquared2

                        What's your Ramen place in CC? The only thing I can think of is Pho Show, which is OK in a pinch and not ramen....or do you venture to Centinela and go to Santouka?

                        3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                        Pho Show
                        4349 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

                        Centinela Cafe
                        4800 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                        1. re: NAspy

                          Santouka. Maybe that isn't Culver City, but I was never very good with geography. Close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades is the old saying?

                          Pho Show isn't Ramen. I'm not quite sure if it is really Pho, fo' sho (Pho Sure?). Santouka is close enough for me and I work in CC.

                          3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                          Pho Show
                          4349 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

                2. Thank you! To both you and Dommy! We've been casting about for a new place to go in the neighborhood. Wish I had noticed Dommy's post earlier, we were at a loss where to go last night. Will have to go soon.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Jase

                    They're obviously still being discovered by pottential eaters. I thought it might be a mad house last night given J. Gold's article and Dommy!'s blurb. We rolled in around 6:30PM and it was about 80% full. By 8PM, the crowd had thinned to about 50%. When we left around 8:20 a few more diners started showing up.

                    What was significant was that a fair number of diners who were already seated and well into their meals before us continued to order more food and either left a little before us or were even still there eating after we left. That's a lot of food for a large percentage of tables.

                    For those who abide by Halal, I think only one food item - gyro - was specified as not Halal. Kind of strange to say this in the same breath, but the owner said that they are still working on getting a beer and wine license, but to feel free to BYO in the mean time. The owner is young, very hands-on, and really wants this to work with what seems to be with the best of intentions.

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      That makes it even more of a bummer that we didn't make it over last night. I've been swamped at work and haven't caught up to latest neighborhood developments. If possible, we usually like to hit things before they get reviews and avoid the crowds or wait a good while until the initial wave has died off and they can recalibrate their service.

                      Might have to adjust plans and go this weekend while everyone is out for the Easter holiday. That's probably why it didn't get as busy.

                      1. re: Jase

                        Hey, give it a shot. Too many viable plan-b's around there if all else fails.

                  2. Awesome review, B, I'm so excited to try this place!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: a_and_w

                      Thanks. Hounds like you immediately came to mind when I started tasting the food. "Wonder if this would pass the taste test of Hounds like a and w, Dommy!, DU, et al..." I'm really curious to see where Mezza stands with you. I know you're really up on this cuisine (as well as just about everything else), and Alcazar is on your short list. Mezza won't have the breadth of Alcazar's menu (no lamb tongue, raw meat, etc.) but I think you'll find it sufficient enough to not have the same things for at least a few visits. Don't pass on dessert. Their ashta was fantastic - even without the syrup or honey. Nice balance of rosewater, richness and texture.

                    2. Wonderful recommendation. The sambousek and kafta were great, as was the spicy hummus--no pickled vegetables or olives, though (perhaps because it was late and they were out or possibly an oversight?). The only item which was a (mild) disappointment was the lentil soup--nice flavor but I prefer it thicker like they serve at Alcazar and Sham.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: New Trial

                        I'm glad you enjoyed this place. No pickled veggies nor olives? Sorry to hear that. We didn't ask for ours, so I would assume it's part of the meal. I guess folks in the future should make a point in asking for it if it doesn't arrive with the pita.

                        My wife loves lentils - she almost ordered the soup but we opted for the kibbi instead - we really liked this. She will probably order the soup next time. Thinner is okay with her, as long as the flavor is good. Thank you for describing this for us.

                        I could easily eat two orders of the sambousek. I love just about anything reminiscent of a turnover or dumpling. The Kafta was great - did you pick up on the aromatics? I can't put my finger on what's in there that's so different.

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          I assumed it was sumac but won't swear to it. I forgot to mention the terrific za'atar with pita chips that they served at the start of the meal.

                          1. re: New Trial

                            Za'atar and pita chips? I guess that's something else to ask for. :) I was thinking along the same lines of sumac but I can't swear by it either. It's much more pronounced than what I'm used to (or maybe I've never come across a good example of it) and have never used it in cooking myself.

                      2. B,
                        Thanks again for the review and prompt to visit. I hold you in the same regard as Dommy and Das. My wife and I's tastebuds seem to match up against the three of you fairly regularly, the exceptions are few and far between.

                        We popped in there Easter Sunday at 6:30 expecting a quiet dinner and was pleasantly surprised by an almost full house and happy vibe of a huge party and a couple other large groups.

                        Won't go into the details too much since you covered it already but I will preface that we're very much newbies when it comes to this type of food. I generally respect and like it but not crave it. I'll only note differences and highlights. No olives/pickles but they immediately dropped off the pita chips and Za'atar. Wife loved it! She was digging every last drop and wanted me to start trying to make it at home. We got three apps, Fried cauliflower, sambousek and kibbi. Liked all three and the biggest thing we noticed was the items were fried correctly. Not heavy and greasy. Light, crisp, interior hot but still juicy. Just a deft hand and correct oil temperture. Fried items can be such a pitfall.

                        Entrees were the shrimp kabob and kafta kabob. We chose the baba ghanous, spicy hummous, tabouleh and fatoush for our sides. The only disappointment was the shrimp kabob. Unfortunately it was overcooked. Liked the smokiness on the outside but it was on the dry side, no juicyness. We liked everything else, including all the sides.

                        Had to ask for the garlic sauce and was blown away by it. Good bite and pungency but not overwhelming. We liked the toastyness of the pita but as previously noted some people might not like this less pillowy style.

                        We split the baklava for dessert. I'm blanking on the name of the curd like item that came with it. We liked it but don't know if I can eat a ton of it. I thought the baklava could have been crispier but overall we liked it.

                        We definitely want to explore the rest of the menu. I want to see how they handle the lamb since I love lamb. More of the apps too, I love to nosh so that would be fun to do. One thought we had was it could be a quick hit before or after a movie by sitting at the bar for a drink and a few appetizers.

                        Thanks again for the review.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: Jase

                          Thank you for the shower of compliments but I'm a blunt instrument compared to the finely tuned culinary hounds who you also mention - I'm a freshman, they're doctors of Chowology.

                          It sounds like the pita chips and Za'atar are the change-up. I think it makes things simpler for them and I would guess it will appeal to more diners as well. Was the Za'atar greenish or reddish (Lebanese version with sumac)?

                          Sorry to hear about the shrimp. My only guess would be that with the apparently very high heat they're using, they missed on the small window between nice char and dry shrimp. This could easily happen if left unattended particularly when it's busy. The garlic sauce is amazing. We've found a reasonable substitute at the Sunday Mar Vista FM's Greek food stand. It's not as refined as Mezza's - the garlic isn't shy at all.

                          Was that curd-like item the ashta? It is thick, not too rich (almost like labneh/laban but not tart) and has a rose petal water essence to it. We split a plate of this among five of us (just left us wanting a bit more), so yes, a plate after a full meal might be too much.

                          We love lamb too - that's on our list as well. Speaking of lamb and the Mar Vista FM, there's a new stand with some mighty tasty and unique cuts of lamb. Kinda pricey but worthy of a weekend meal or special occasion.

                          Noshing = mezze. What your eating instincts are telling you is exactly what so much of this menu is about. We only ordered two entrees but a ton of the apps and small plates. It's fun and festive! I mentioned this above, but they have yet to get their beer/wine license. In the mean time, the owner Jake said to feel free about BYO. I wonder if he partakes? :)

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            If you're a freshman, that must mean I'm still in diapers. And if you ask my wife, I'm sure she'll agree that emotionally and mentally I am.

                            The Za'atar was reddish. The couple of recipes I googled had the sumac in it so I I'm on the right road I think. Dried thyme, who would have thunk?

                            On the shrimp, yes it's tough to hit right. That's why we got excited hearing about it. We hit Chente regularly and Sergio is so on the ball with the timing I think it's easy to forget how hard it is to hit that window. When I broil shrimp at home I don't walk away from the oven for fear of ruining it.

                            I believe it was Ashta for the curd, just can't remember. Yes, thick but not overly rich. I did about 4 bites and wife killed the rest. But she's more of a sweets desserts person. I'm more of a savory, appetizer eater. We were thinking it would go well with some pita or toast for a mid day snack.

                            Regarding Mar Vista' FM, the Greek stand has the garlic? We go just about every Sunday and haven't noticed it. But we haven't been hitting that stand. We'll have to check it out. I've been trying to recreate that type of garlic sauce for a while but have not succeeded enough to placate the wife. She would slather it on any roast meat or toast regularly if she could. So thanks again for another tip.

                            We did try that meat purveyor not too long after they set up. The one with the all grass fed meats? Got the lamb loin chops. $12.99/lb, agree about the price. Especially since Top Valu has halal lamb chops that are considerably cheaper and not that far drop off in taste. The biggest thing I noticed about the grass fed lamb was the fat was not as heavy and didn't linger as long on the tongue and palate. A cleaner finish but still had the lamb essence. I'm not particularly averse to fat but do try to avoid too much as I get older. For chops, I actually prefer the O bone cut because of the marbling and bit of marrow. I find it a good balance between the fattier tougher shoulder blades and leaner loin cut.

                            Thanks and I'm sure we'll walk past each other unknowingly in the nabe. My email is in my profile, would love to say hi to you sometime at the Sunday FM.

                            1. re: Jase

                              The Greek stand has some pretty good offerings. Drop by and you can try everything on the table. The food comes from their restaurant which is located on Arbor Vitae, just east of Airport Blvd. We haven't tried the place yet, but hope to in the near future.

                              IMHO, the garlic sauce at Mezza has a more mellow less overpowering garlic flavor than the Greek food stand's. The vegan stand (between the Oaxacan vegan and the southern-most vegan stand) also carries something very similar as well. I believe Mezza's owner Jake told me that the basic ingredients are sour cream, olive oil, lemon, salt and a ton of garlic. Of course, I don't know the proportions or if some or all of the garlic may have been prepared in some way (roasted/sauteed/boiled) before going into the mix.

                              Other than it being halal, I don't know about Mezza's lamb. I think most of what we find around here is from either Autralia or NZ. We've been vacationing up in Marin the past couple of years because of the Chow/vino/brewski factor north of The Bay. The lamb up there is all grass-fed from what we've been told (and seen). They do charge a premium for it relative to the imported, but we prefer it. We picked up a "rackless" rack of lamb (that was deboned) from that stand. We really liked it a lot. Got four "steaks" out of it that we seasoned with rosemary, salt&pepper, and just a little thyme and cumin. It reminded me of pork belly but tasting like lamb. Definitely not for every day but something to consider.

                              We never considered Top Valu as a Halal lamb purveyor. Will check them out - thanks for the tip. We had some nice O bone cuts from the stand that sells grass-fed at the SM Arizona/3rd St FM. Like the Mar Vista stand, it can get pricey, but it's nice stuff. They vacuum-pak it so it stores well.

                              Thanks for offering your hand. I'll shoot you an email soon. :)

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                They have quite a bit of middle eastern goods at Top Valu... Their founder and CEO is Persian....


                                1. re: Dommy

                                  I was wondering why all the Middle Eastern products scattered throughout the store, especially the canned goods, syrups and spices. My half-@$$ reasoning was going along the lines of a Lebanese connection like one finds in Yucatecan cuisine. Thanks!

                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    That too! :) I know several Lebanese/Mexicans and although their cooking tends to fall on the Mexican Side, it's also so much fun when one of them introduces me to their "Abuelita's Tabbouleh" LOL!


                                2. re: bulavinaka

                                  i LOVE your turn of phrase:
                                  <<Chow/vino/brewski factor>>
                                  with your permission, i plan to steal it.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    >>with your permission, i plan to steal it.<<

                                    For someone who lives by this credo every meal, granted. :)

                          2. We dropped by tonight for dinner again. The buzzword for the evening was "LEMONY!" We all felt that seasoning with lemon juice particularly on the battaa harra and the tabouli to a lesser degree was too heavy-handed. We do like the use of lemon in the various dishes and know it's part and parcel to Lebanese cuisine, but I think balance is important as well.

                            Mezza seems to be picking up steam - it was practically full most of the time while we were there around 7:30 - 9PM. Service was good - the staff is very accommodating, pleasant and tries to check in with the tables often.

                            The meal started off with the pita chips and Za'atar that others have mentioned - very nice way to start a meal. The flavors in the Za'atar were very subtle at first, and started to slowly compound with each successive bite. The hints of herbs, spice, savory and nuttiness do well in giving the tastebuds an idea of what is to come.

                            Aside from the battaa harra and tabouli, we ordered the following:

                            Kibbi: Perfectly fried like the first time and very savory filling.

                            Falafel: Like the kibbi, perfectly fried. Nice crispy outside with a fluffy inside. As poster Jase had mentioned, they have a deft hand at frying food. Mezza plates five falafel between spokes of pickled turnips, and is garnished with red onions and parsley.

                            Hummus with shwarma: Their standard hummus is topped with a generous amount of shwarma. We didn't expect so much shwarma to be on top - this could easily be one of two dishes be shared by two in completing a meal. The shwarma was moist and tender, but I didn't pick up on the slight charring that a vertical pit rotisserie usually gives. Other than that, it was a nice (but filling) dish.

                            Fish kabob plate: Two kabobs with large chunks of mahi mahi, bell peppers, onions and mushrooms; served with rice; sides were baba ganouj and fatoush. I think it is very difficult to properly grill kabobs when both vegetables and proteins are on the skewer. Veggies tend to take longer than I would prefer to cook most proteins. Most of the fish was adequately or very moist, but there were a couple of pieces (as well as parts of the others that were otherwise acceptable) that were slightly dry. The garlic and lemon seasoning went well with the fish - I think this saved the kabobs.

                            The fatoush is light and refreshing. What stands out is the use of dried mint. I normally don't care for dried mint, but in this case, it worked for me. Dried mint is more restrained than fresh, and when combined with the dressing and salad components, the balance of flavors was appealing to me.

                            The standout item for me tonight was the baba ganouj. Wonderfully rich and very smokey, they obviously roast the eggplants over the grill. If this is the way you prefer baba ganouj, it is hard to beat.

                            Chicken tawook kabob: Like the fish kabobs, chunks of chicken and vegetables are integrated on to two skewers; served with rice; sides were baba ganouj and fatoush. The chicken was better than the fish in terms of moistness. Other than a couple of pieces that had parts that were dry, the kabobs were moist and flavorful.

                            Lamb chops. Four relatively thin chops of varying sizes; served with rice; sides were hummus and tabouli. I prefer my lamb to be on the rare side. Unfortunately, they were medium-well. I don't know if this is standard or if one can request their lamb or anything else to be cooked to a specific doneness. The flavor of the lamb itself was nice and gamey, and there was a good balance of the various components of the seasoning as well. The chops were on the thin side - I was expecting thicker ones, which would have helped with the doneness issue. I don't know if I'd order this one again if this is par for Mezza's lamb.

                            Dessert: Ashta topped with baklava, garnished with strawberries and crushed pistachios, topped with syrup. This was a wonderful way to end the meal. The gentleman running the floor (I didn't get his name) offered the dessert to us gratis - a nice gesture that we truly enjoyed and appreciated. Again, the ashta is amazing here. The smooth rich texture and taste is highlighted with just enough rose water essence to lighten up the dessert. I encourage you to try this.

                            Mezza is still in the process of securing a beer & wine license. In the mean time, they allow BYO and no corkage. Many tables did BYO (as did we) - the staff is very accommodating.

                            I felt a little slip from my first visit. I'm guessing (or at least hoping) that something was different in the kitchen tonight, and hopefully just tonight. However, all in all, we still enjoyed the meal and look forward to covering the rest of the menu. Note to self: request a lighter hand with the lemon, and request specific doneness on the proteins.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: bulavinaka

                              Tried it last night as well. I don't really have anything new to add to the already great write-ups posted here other then to add agreement. Had the Filet Kebab which is a dish I literally grew up on so I've got strong opinions about them. Mezza's ranked up there as one of the better ones I've had and was definitely the best one I've had in the general area (I'm still partial to Maroush though). Kibbi was flavorful and light, not greasy as it can be. Fatoush and Baba Ganoush both very good.

                              All in all, I'm willing to recant on my "please no more restaurants in Culver City" plea because it's a good addition with great food.

                              1. re: Discokill

                                "All in all, I'm willing to recant on my "please no more restaurants in Culver City" plea because it's a good addition with great food."

                                So, what you're really saying is "please no more...poor additions with crappy food." I think we can all agree with that sentiment. ;-D>

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Or at the very least no more French places or sandwich/lunch shops ;)

                                    1. re: Discokill

                                      if there would be a true French place down there, I'd still be down with that.

                                      1. re: kevin

                                        I think that it would be a tough sell for anyone to open up a refined French cuisine restaurant right now (and probably especially in Culver City). Look at the recent experience with La Cachette moving the other direction (and that was from the much more upscale Century City / Beverly Hills adjacent location that they occupied for a long, long time). The new place is another bistro style French place: http://www.meetrestaurantla.com/

                                    2. re: Servorg

                                      I work in Culver City. More restaurants are OK as long as they are good ;)

                                      Mezze also has parking. So I also say "more good restaurants...with parking!". And if Mezze is crowded, Skratch has good sandwiches and you can get in and out pretty quickly.

                                      I didn't know there were so many French places in Culver City.

                                      Skratch Restaurant
                                      3867 Hughes Ave, Culver City, CA

                                      1. re: bsquared2

                                        i thoughyt there was only la dijonaise, and the new french place from angelique cafe,

                                        on sedond though thhere is a bistro right next door to another french restaurant i believe which two being in one block is pretty excessive, unless they serve different kinds of frenchy food.

                                        1. re: kevin

                                          Yeah it was just those three I was counting (La dijonaise, Saint Amour & Meet).

                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    Oh yeah the baba ganoush, I forgot to mention that we really liked it too. It actually elicited a "mmm: moment from me and I went back for a second swipe right away from my wife's plate. I usually like it but I don't go out of the way for it.

                                  2. "Mmmm - this is frickin' great! Mezza is back on track..." The tabouleh was just as I remembered it on our first visit. Just the right amount of lemon, olive oil and onion to balance out the grassy herbaceousness of this chopped parsley salad. And in fact, everything was back on track. The kitchen could do no wrong last night.

                                    Labneh: Wonderfully creamy with just a slight tanginess. Labneh is traditional yogurt/cheese found in parts of the Mediterranean, through the Middle East and into South Asia. Vaguely similar in consistency to cream cheese, it imparts a fresh clean taste and has as smooth rich mouthfeel. Like cream cheese, it sits on a neutral line, being able to take on various roles from sweet to herbaceous to savory as one chooses. A scoop sprinkled with pistachios or other nut, fruits and honey makes for a nice breakfast, snack or dessert. Used like cream cheese, it can be a filling along with vegetables, herbs and olive oil in a pita to make a rich yet balanced sandwich. Used as a dip, it acts as a rich foil for herbs, olive oil, spices and pickles for vegetables and breads.

                                    The herbs (both fresh and dry) and olive oil push this labneh into the herbaceous slightly savory territory. The garnishes of cucumber and mint communicate to the eyes that as rich as the labneh appears, this will be cool and refreshing. Served with pita, this labneh reminds me of a more healthy version of cream cheese. The mouthfeel rich and mouthfilling, but very clean. This is a nice substitute for hummus - more decadent yes, as it hits a different part of the palate but plays a similar role in this case. Now that Mezza typically offers za'atar with pita chips, take advantage of the za'atar by using it in conjunction with the labneh on just about anything you choose with your apps or meals.

                                    Nakenek: The rather understated description on the menu is, "Eight pieces of beef sausage sauteed with lemon juice." Big deal, right? This menu item lies in wait for any casual diner to order this - probably to fill out a range of appetizers (as we did) - only to be blown away by one of the most flavorful mouthfilling experiences in Downtown Culver City. These are not so much pieces as in little slices summarily cut from a sausage, but nice neat little individual handmade cocktail-size sausages of varying sizes that hit your eyes and nose immediately, first by their neat appearance and burnished cayenne color, then by the smell of exotic spices. The nakenek is like a diminutive Merguez sausage with a serious Napoleon complex. While I picked up on sumac, dried chile and herbs of all sorts, the meat tastes of a mix of lamb and beef, as opposed to just beef as stated on the menu. And like so many Lebanese foods, the lemon really adds a kick of acid, freshness and balance to this dish, making this tiny sausage a true mouthful of flavors. If you've had the relatively tame but flavorful maanee sausages at Alcazar, these are only similar roughly in size and shape. This nakenek is bold, entertaining and just a delight to eat. We all were amazed at the flavors.

                                    Cheese rakakat: A very simple yet elegant cheese-filled pastry that is deep-fried. LIke everything else deep-fried that we've had here, this was perfectly done, not overly oily and was more tame and simple in its flavor profile - the cheese has a slight tanginess - but a nice way to balance out some of the far more bold flavors on our table. To add another dimension of flavor, try add some za'atar or eat it along side the nakenek, but eating this neat is fine as well.

                                    Fried Cauliflower: The menu item under the "Appetizers" section indicates, "Fried Eggplant and Cauliflower," but one can order one or the other. The fried cauliflower here is exceptional - we really like cauliflower - so we order just the cauliflower. And now, we've finally come to the realization that one order of this really isn't enough - it's that good. We will order two from now on...

                                    Arayes Kafta: Like labneh, kafta in various forms, spellings and incarnations is common throughout just about anywhere that even hints of cuisines from the Mediterranean, Middle East, West Asia; as far as Central Europe (Serbian chevapchichi) and South Asia as well (Indian vegetarian potato or vegetable koftas). When seeing this word, it usually implies that something - usually beef or lamb - has been minced or pounded into some paste of varying consistency (depending on its use).

                                    In Mezza's case, Kafta is found in the form of kabobs, sandwiches and their humble Arayes Kafta. Simple in execution, its basic architecture can be viewed as either a double-deck pizza, or a slightly crisped double pita sandwich that has been cut into wedges. The kafta is basically moderately seasoned ground beef sandwiched between two slightly toasted pitas, seasoned with sumac and garnished with tomatoes and onions. The dish comes with a small cup of a frothy cucumber-laced yogurt sauce reminiscent of tsatziki. And like so much of Lebanese cuisine, there's some sort of spice, ingredient, sauce or condiment - in this case yogurt sauce - that acts as a play to add another dimension of flavor to an already enjoyable dish. This kafta is unlike the kabob's kafta in that it is far more mild in seasoning, but is very savory on the tongue. It is also of a ground meat consistency as opposed to a paste. The wedges are easily handled and goes well with the za'atar and yogurt sauce. The pita is just crisp but pliable enough to take a bite without falling apart. This item could easily fill in as a lunch dish that would be similar in weight to a sandwich.

                                    Chicken Tawook Kabob: This is our second time ordering this and compared to last week, it was grilled perfectly. The chicken was just charred on the edges, while the inside was still very moist and tender. This is a very mildly seasoned dish (as is the mahi mahi) compared to the beef, lamb or gyro - a gopod choice for those who prefer a lighter flavor profile. All entrees come with a choice of either tabouleh or fatoush for salad, and either hummus (regular or spicy) or baba ganouj. As I mentioned in my previous post upthread, IMHO the baba ganouj is exceptional.

                                    Gyro Plate: This was another WOW/Mmmm moment. The average gyro found around town is prepared in a fashion that seems to be an obligatory afterthought reminiscent of combining wet cardboard and vegan meat as a binder. If you're tired of this kind of blase' snoozer stuff, please give Mezza's gyro a go. They slice the gyro big and slightly thick. It's a generous portion that is juicy and flavorful, stuffed into a pita. Like the kafta, it's full of flavors, moist and tender - not cardboardy. Most gyros leave on regretting that it was ordered - this one will pass muster.

                                    Filet Mignon Kabob: Again - WOW/Mmmm. As poster Discokill mentioned above, this is a nice piece of meat (or nice pieceS). Slightly spicy, the flavors coming off the beef are distinctly Mediterranean, and we asked for medium-rare - guess what? We got medium-rare. The beef is extremely tender as well. Flavorful, tender, prepared as asked - just a beeflover's dream.

                                    I mentioned that on our previous visit, it's BYO and no corkage - this is still the case. We decided not to bring a bottle this time and to enjoy the jalab which we did. Jalab (Jallab, is a drink made of water, a syrup consisting of any one or a combination of dates, date syrup and grape molasses; rose water, and is topped with nuts like pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. It is sweet, but not as sweet as I expected, and the rose water hits the nose as if to reset your palate and senses away from the food so as to enjoy it for the first time all over again. It's almost as if one is sniffing a rose between bites, continuously entertaining the senses and perceptions between reality and fantasy. I know rose water is similar to lavender in that one either likes it or hates it. for those who enjoy rose water, this is just another way to incorporate it into your meal. To give a baseline, my son has a very sensitive nose. If something is overly perfumed, he will run to the hills. Upon sampling our jalab, he enjoyed it so much that he ordered one for himself. Not bad for a soda-loving 10-year old.

                                    We all felt that the kitchen was putting out some excellent well-prepared meals tonight. We're hoping that this is their standard. I think the addition of a few more dishes might be nice, but if I had to choose between a more expansive menu or solid dishes in their current menu, I'd easily take the latter. I really want Mezza to succeed not only for my own selfish desires, but also to expand other peoples' palates to truly good food that is rooted in the Middle East.

                                    Middle East Restaurant
                                    910 E Main St, Alhambra, CA 91801

                                    29 Replies
                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      guess i might have to try the ground beef kebab and the gyro, i was not really impressed with the fried cauliflower and eggplant nor the sauteed garlic potatoes, good to decent, but nothing to write home about, am i the only one that thinks it's just ok so far??? my apologies for being the lone dissenter somewhat. but i may need that additional visit to round out my opinion.

                                      1. re: kevin

                                        kevin, I personally have no issue with you or anyone dissenting! In fact, I encourage this. I personally feel I have a lot to learn still from all angles, and those with differing opinions help me look beyond my own perceptions. I've always valued your posts because you're frank and to the point about your opinions.

                                        1. re: kevin

                                          I was not impressed with the cauliflower/eggplant dish either. I went to Mezza just for that dish based on the raves it received on this board. I thought the eggplant was a little oily and limp and the cauliflower not as crisp as it appeared to be in the pictures somebody posted. We split the combo dish with the filet mignon, chicken, and ground beef kabob. It also came with rice, hummus, and tabouleh sides, all of which I thought were all fresh and light. I didn't notice how salty the meat was while I was eating it, as it was very tasty, but you figure it out about an hour later when you can't drink enough water to quench your thirst. I am not really knocking the food, and I'm sure I'll be back, but I will probably skip the cauliflower dish.

                                          1. re: kevin

                                            On the issue of dissent -- I haven't been there b/c Alcazar is there on Westwood. I think J Gold (not that his palate is as refined as I would like) even said that Mezza doesn't offer anything that Alcazar and Sunnin don't (nor any better) and that was enough reason for me not to hurry over. Besides the fact that Sunnin doesn't cut it for me.

                                            1. re: epop

                                              I totally understand your logic, and if you refer to my OP up top, my burst of joy about Mezza is for the fact that up until them opening in DTCC, there really was no solid Lebanese cuisine in the southern portion of the Westside. The usual players in the Westside were all north of Santa Monica Blvd. Beyond that, it was either the SF Valley or Burbank/Glendale area. In other words, the options radiated out and away from the coastal and southern parts of the Westside.

                                              As for Mezza's menu, it is brief when compared to the institutions. That's fine with me too. As long as they keep the quality up, I can live with an abbreviated menu. And since they just opened about four weeks ago, I think it might be too early for them to entertain the idea of expanding their menu. Like you, I now have little or no reason to head over to certain areas and parts beyond unless some strange urge for something like raw meat or lambs tongues overcomes me. Please accept my apology if you felt any urge to head straight down to Mezza if you already have your favorites. Again - this is a blessing for the lower Westside. The Alcazars, Sunnins and Skafs will all be fine with or without Mezza in DTCC.

                                              I'm not sure if you heard J. Gold on "Good Food" talking about the new Sunnin. I didn't catch the whole segment, but he did speak very highly of a few dishes. You might want to hear what he has to say in case you've written off the old Sunnin.

                                              Beside having to deal with Westwood traffic, one of the major gripes I have with going to the old Sunnin and Alcazar Express is the parking issue. Yeah, if one looks hard enough, an open spot will eventually appear. I know DTCC isn't great either, but at least the parking structures offer two hours free parking.

                                              An added plus for Mezza is that the parking structure behind the restaurant (the entrance is off Washington, just west of Meza) is free after 6PM. Because Mezza is now one of the favorite restaurants for my mom who's in her 80s, this is a real plus. It still cracks me up that until a few weeks ago, she wouldn't touch cheese, hummus or lamb. She's missed out for decades but at least she now has another reason to stick around for a while. :)

                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                I guess I'll have to try the new Sunnin but the original was so average I find it hard to believe it changed a whole lot. I usually go to Glendale for my mezze. DTCC is a hike for me as well, although far less of one. But I'm all about a cost benefit analysis, with too little time and an ability to make most of this food at home (or go to a couple friends who blow these places out of the water) much better than just about any restaurant. That's why when it comes time to going to Mezza I can't entirely trust guys like J Gold.

                                                1. re: epop

                                                  DTCC probably can't be any farther from you (maybe even a bit closer) than (for instance) Aliki's Greek Taverna over by LAX.

                                                  1. re: epop

                                                    the old sunnin had a microwave right next to the falafal fryer so that they could make falafal in batches and reheat them in the microwave.
                                                    what else do you need to know┬┐

                                            2. re: bulavinaka

                                              Agreed 100% on the gyro. My pregnant wife who doesn't like lamb or gyros particularly swallowed pieces of gyro with the yogurt cucumber sauce.

                                              Their falafels are perfect as others have mentioned. There is a real lightness and airy crispness to them. We noticed a hint of herbs in there - did anybody else get that?

                                              The yogurt cucumber sauce is the best I've ever had. I could bath myself in the sauce. Great consistency, huge chunks of cucumber and excellent balance of flavors. I was dipping the pita, gyro meat, falafel, everything but my napkin into the yogurt sauce by the end of the meal.

                                              1. re: js76wisco

                                                how would the gyro here compare to other gyros around town that you ahve tried?

                                                1. re: kevin

                                                  Here is my list of best gyros in LA
                                                  1. Mezza
                                                  2. Ulysses Voyage at the Grove
                                                  3. Kings Kabob on Sepulveda and Sawtelle
                                                  others - Petros in Manhattan Beach and Pita Kitchen in Sherman Oaks
                                                  I haven't tried Le Petit Greek or some of the other places out in the valley. I don't really think Papa Cristos is all that good and certainly not worth a longer drive that any of my top 3.

                                                  I agree with you on the fried cauliflower and eggplant. Those were just ok but trust me the gyro, falafel and yogurt sauce are worth giving Mezza another try.

                                                  Papa Cristos
                                                  2771 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                                                  Petros Restaurant
                                                  451 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

                                                  Pita Kitchen
                                                  14500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

                                                  Ulysses Voyage
                                                  6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                                    1. re: js76wisco

                                                      I thought the eggplant was mediocre, but we really like cauliflower. And for us, Mezza's really hit the spot. I guess, YMMV...

                                                      1. re: js76wisco

                                                        shocking. Mezza better than at the grove? Good to know. Aliki (by LAX) is better than kings and Papa Cristos by a long shot. THey don't get mentioned enough on CH but should.

                                                        1. re: epop

                                                          Been wanting to try Aliki as we really enjoy their goods at the Sunday Mar Vista FM. That area's a dead zone for us - really no other reason to go other than to try Aliki.

                                                          1. re: epop

                                                            can i get more info on aliki? never heard of it before.

                                                              1. re: epop

                                                                Thanks epop I always forget about Akili's - I've gotta make my way out there. The next time I'm flying out I'll leave an hour early, better than $10 crappy airline sandwiches. We always seem to get into good gyro debates.

                                                      2. re: js76wisco

                                                        Perfect falafels?

                                                        What is the gold standard you're comparing them to?

                                                        1. re: epop

                                                          You may want to check out Dommy!'s post in the link I provided above in the OP. She mentions it's in the same vein as Hayat's. Quite the complement but I'm guessing still playing at least second fiddle to Hayat's.

                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                            Yeah, to me they were second fiddle... Hayats were a bit more delicate in their crunch.... but Mezza's were not far behind and about 20 miles closer (and 10 degrees cooler... LOL!!)


                                                            1. re: Dommy

                                                              the best falafels i have had are at Simon's Cafe, truly something special. fluffy, light as feather, and beautifully fried.

                                                              1. re: Dommy

                                                                I think coming from you, a good baseline is now established for comparing Mezza's to most other places. Thanks...

                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                  I think Hayat's and Mezza have the best falafels in LA. To me they are a toss up. Both are far superior to Arax falafel - I've given Arax two different tries and didn't think it was remarkable. The best falafel I've ever eaten was in Fremont at some generic sounding place I think Falafel Etc or Falafel 123. The falafel at Alcazar is high quality but Mezza is my new go to since I live much close to DTCC than Westwood.

                                                                  Has anybody noticed that they added regular pitas to the menu? I went there yesterday and picked up a gyro plate. It's the first time I was given regular pita. I was kinda getting used to the very thin skinny pitas from both a flavor and lower carb intake perspective. I only order to go so didn't notice but have they replaced the skinny pitas permanently?

                                                                  1. re: js76wisco

                                                                    Wow - talk about an endorsement for Mezza's falafels...

                                                                    The pita situation might be a response to customers' comments. I haven't been since last friday, but as mentioned extensively throughout this thread, diners are regularly being asked about their meal. I am sure that many prefer the thicker softer pita style, so this may be them making a move in that direction. Their original style is what I'm used to when eating Lebanese, but it's a small concession to "the experience" for me as I'll take either. It could be similar to the "fluffy bagel vs. chewy bagel" debate, but to a far lesser degree. I just hope Mezza doesn't concession themselves to the point of being like a Daphne's. If I even sense that coming, I'm driving out to parts north again.

                                                                    1. re: js76wisco

                                                                      I have yet to taste a good falafel in LA but haven't tried Hayat's, and will. They're barely to be found in America, that's why I asked. NYC had a place but they closed. There is one stilll in Coney Island with the right taste.

                                                                      While I like Alcazar I think their falafel is only above average. Arax was lousy. That light perfect taste one finds in a small joint in a place like Haifa
                                                                      is coming harder and harder to find.

                                                                      1. re: epop

                                                                        Sorry to hijack the thread but have you been to Taim in the east village? My Israeli friends swear this is as good as it gets and reminds them of Israel.

                                                                        I think you'll find the falafel at both Hayat and Mezza very good. You may have higher standards for falafel having eaten at the motherland.

                                                                        One thing I've noticed with Korean food is that LA is the food is just as inventive and good as the same type of food in Seoul. I went there last summer and was able to get a good sampling of the food. The best places in LA are comparable to the best places in Seoul. That's not just me talking but you'll hear this from a lot of Koreans living in LA. You can go into many Korean BBQ places in Seoul and order LA Galbi. I'm not saying this is the same for falafel but I think if you take good chefs from the motherland (in this case Lebanon) you'll get comparable falafel. The garbanzos, spices, cooking oil, etc... can't be that much different. Or are they?

                                                                        1. re: js76wisco

                                                                          Your friend isn't entirely misleading you. Taim (in the West Village, btw) is better than most, yes, but isn't as good as the place in Coney Island. Azuri in Manhattan is usually tastier than Taim, I think, but that might be more b/c of his toppings. I confess that I didn't try their falafel balls on their own, which I will do the next time I fly that way. I don't think they're anything to jump up and down about.

                                                                          Even in the Levant few places make it perfectly. But once you've had that many times the rest of this stuff they fry in oil and call falafel doesn't cut it. Most of all you should feel great after you eat it, not like you ate a pile of greasy garbage cooked in old oil, which is the norm.

                                                                          Falafel is a simple food. It requires clean oil and a fresh falafel mix, made with freshly ground cumin. Most places change their oil rarely and the mix sits around and has this dirty/heavy taste. That's what's frustrating. It really isn't that difficult. Yet thanks to palates that have grown accustomed to the lousy food served at most restaurants we have lost touch with how things could and should taste. Like a plum off a tree.

                                                                        2. re: epop

                                                                          I agree that the Alcazar falafel is above average, esp. when freshly fried, but still a step below Azuri, which is the best I've ever had. (Even better than the Coney Island places, Olympic Pita and Famous Pita imo.).

                                                          2. Went there yesterday for lunch. Found parking right outside the door. No meters, even better.

                                                            We started with the fried cauliflower and eggplant, which I enjoyed, but my half Arabic boyfriend thought wasn't great. He makes fried cauliflower at home and likes them extra extra crispy. Matter of personal preference, but since it is a simple dish, I'd skip it next time and order something else off the menu.

                                                            I had the shrimp kebob. I usually stay away from that menu item at middle eastern places, even at my favorite Shamshiri. It's just too easy to get dry and rubbery shrimp, like OP says. I put caution to the wind and ordered it anyway. Very juicy, lots of flavor from the marinade. I had it with the spicy hummus, which was the first "spicy" hummus I've ever ordered from a restaurant that was actually a little spicy. Fantastic! I also had the Fatoush salad, which reminds me of salad Shirazi, but with lettuce. Really tasty and fresh.

                                                            My boyfriend ordered some beef Shawarma and added some Kafta. He said both had good flavor, he was only sad the Shawarma didn't have the burnt edges he typically enjoys. I'm guessing he could ask for that next time.

                                                            The entire staff was very friendly. The (I think) owner came over a couple of times to chat, and he was endearingly sweet. The servers were all friendly. The servers could use a little refinement, ie not stacking dishes on the table, not asking if we're ready to order two seconds after sitting down. As an iced tea drinker, I loathe being refilled from a pitcher. I like ice and lemon. Just like Cokes, you should do a swap out with new ice, new lemon, etc.. Little kinks that will hopefully work themselves out in time.

                                                            I'll definitely be back. Delicious food, good prices. Cute atmosphere, friendly people.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Azizeh

                                                              We've ordered the spicy hummus every time as one of our sides and we are also impressed with it actually being spicy as well, but not crazy Thai chilli padi spicy. The heat is just right to me.

                                                              Mezza's produce has been really fresh each of the three times we've been. Whether it's the chef, the owner or both who are insisting on the quality, I've been secretly applauding this as so many places consider this to be an afterthought.

                                                              The owner(s) buzzing around the dining area just tells me that they really want to do things right and respond to any customer concerns. I know this is obvious, but it's nice to see that they want to accommodate as much as possible, not dictate. I think your boyfriend's wish for the nice crispy slightly-charred edges is a good point to bring up. This little touch makes a substantial difference - like the roasting of the eggplant for their baba ganouj - the extra attention shows in the end result. I'd definitely request this in the future. They're very receptive to customer suggestions - your comments would elevate the dining expertise for them to pass on to their other eaters.

                                                              Another nice touch is when you exit the restaurant, the hostess has a silver dispenser with rose water that helps freshen your hands. I know it's like rose water city here, but if you like the rose water, you can ask for this in case she misses the opportunity to offer it to you.

                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                You're exactly right. They were very nice when he wanted a Kafta added to his Shawarma meal. Those are his two favorite things and he really wanted to try both. I don't remember if he substituted or added on to his meal, but they happily obliged.

                                                                Next time we go, I'll be sure to remind him to ask for his charred edges. I'm sure he'll be happy.

                                                            2. We've been twice now and have enjoyed it both times. A good addition to the neighborhood, for sure.

                                                              On our visits, we've had:

                                                              -falafel. Good flavor, crispy outside and moist without being mushy.
                                                              -grape leaves. These were a HUGE hit with the table.

                                                              -Chef Najwa salad. All ingredients were fresh, the apples were a nice touch, amount of dressing was just right.
                                                              -Vegetarian plate.
                                                              -Kafta Kabob
                                                              -Musakaa (as a main, it's also on the appetizer portion of the menu)

                                                              All of the above were good, portions are big. The baba ganouj is yummy - another poster above mentioned the smokiness which I love so if that is your thing, I'd definitely order it here.

                                                              At one of our dinners, our guests ordered the half and half kabob and the gyro. While we did not taste their dishes, they gave them a thumbs-up.

                                                              Service has been good both times. A little over-enthusiastic on our first visit -- which we found out was when the place was only open a few days. A few too many people asking us how our food was which can be a little bit annoying (once or twice is fine but it happened, like 5 times in the span of less than 20 minutes). 2nd time was better in that regard.

                                                              I hope the place does well.

                                                              1. Any further updates, bulavinaka?
                                                                Planning to try Mezza tonight.

                                                                25 Replies
                                                                1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                  Difficult for bula to be at Mezza when he has chained himself (like a 60's anti-war protester at UC Berkeley) to the counter at Bite... ;-D>

                                                                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                    HI Ciao Bob,

                                                                    Wow - I've been on a sugar Jones lately and neglected to post about Mezza updates. We went this past saturday and was pleased to hear that they now serve beer and wine. The lists are very abbreviated. Going off of memory here, but I recall only one each of the house red and white wine for domestic. Three each of red and white from Lebanon. A couple each are served either by the glass or the bottle. We tried the "Chateau St. Thomas" 2004(?) for $40. It was a bit sweet and had loads of black cherries and lots of fresh fruit and hints of violet for a 2004. I was hoping for something more dry - this is not it. We brought home the unfinished portion and it fell off pretty fast in a short while.

                                                                    I don't recall the beer list - I think about five to six selections of domestic big brewer stuff and a couple of foreign brews - one might have been from Lebanon. Prior to Mezza having any alcohol, they had a BYO/no corkage policy. I forgot to ask what their current policy was. I know - I'm slipping. If you are considering BYO, please call - I'd be interested myself and will ask on our next visit.

                                                                    A couple of apps that were new to us were the stuffed grape leaves and spinach fatyer. Keep in mind the love that Lebanese have for olive oil, lemon and mint. The stuffed grape leaves had a nice proportion of grape leaf to rice mix ratio if you enjoy good grape leaves (we do). The grape leaves themselves had a wonderful mouthfeel - I think this might be the chef using a good olive oil in the simmering process. The rice filling has a lemony zing to it with some mint and tomato overtones.

                                                                    The spinach fatyer was interesting. Basically a Lebanese-style spinach pie, they're about two to three bites in size and have a spinach filling that is unlike any I've tried. The spinach is filled with sauteed onions and walnuts, and tastes somewhat lemony (surprise!) and tart from the lemon juice and sumac. I don't know if it's vegan or vegetarian friendly but it's worth asking in case any of your party have those requirements.

                                                                    We finally tried the beef shwarma - I ordered it and got it extra charred on the edges. While I liked it this way, my wife kinda frowned. After having the straight-up beef shwarma (without extra char) on their hummus, she thought it was overdone. I can see wanting it the original way as it is more juicy and of a different flavor. To be honest, I'd take it either way - the kitchen is capable of handling anything grilled as you want it.

                                                                    I also ordered the filet mignon kabob again. This time I asked for it rare. Again - they will provide you with whatever level of doneness you ask for, and this was very rare as ordered. It was almost like seared tuna in doneness - maybe I should have asked for medium rare... Still, the flavor was wonderful.

                                                                    Other than that, everything that we've done repeat orders on has been consistently good. The only dish I've been somewhat disappointed with so far is the lamb chops. The taste was great, but the chops were small and irregular in size and shape. I prefer them medium rare, but they were between medium and well done. The gyro still stands out in my mind as a surprising winner. I'm just so used to average to failing gyro examples and Mezza's blew me off my feet. The kafta is still excellent and the baba ganouj is at least on par with the best I've tried. I've yet to try the salmon (not the biggest fan of salmon) but the mahi mahi was done perfect on our one try.

                                                                    I briefly touched on the subject of vegetarian when I mentioned the spinach fatyar. Mezza's vegetarian plates are basically iterations of their mezze items for the most part. And this is good if everyone is ordering their own food/entrees, as the mezze items are really good here. And I keep mentioning this, but do try the ashta in any way they offer it to you. It's really good stuff.

                                                                    I think for people who eat a lot of Mediterranean cuisine, they may find the menu abbreviated, but what Mezza currently may lack in choices is more than made up by their quality. The hostesses are lovely as they are pleasant, and regardless of the slightly kitschy dress that the waitresses wear around their waists, their skills continue to improve and they're always very friendly and accommodating. I haven't seen Jake for a while, but Abe is always curious to hear what you have to say - good or bad - and is always thankful for your patronage.

                                                                    Parking around Downtown Culver City kinda sucks and kinda doesn't suck. Street parking is very limited - sucks. This is supplemented by the Public Parking structures with two hours free parking but can be somewhat of a walk depending on where you plan to eat - doesn't suck completely. Mezza is located in a building complex where there is free parking after 6PM in the parking structure. The entrance is off Washington, just to the west of Mezza - this definitely doesn't suck!

                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                      I had my first truly underwhelming item there recently, the shrimp kabob (first time I tried it there). Everything else ordered that night was top-notch as usual, especially the mezze, but, for some reason, the shrimp were not only overcooked but were served at room temperature. Unlike revenge, this was not a dish best served cold.

                                                                      1. re: New Trial

                                                                        Sorry to hear about your bad experience. We've only ordered the shrimp once, and it was perfect to our surprise, as I don't associate excellent seafood dishes with places focused primarily on mezze. Our intent was to test the kitchen at their grilling skills and in our case, they passed with flying colors. You would be doing yourself and Mezza a great service by mentioning this to either Abe or Jake if you decide to return. Seriously - they are always looking to improve their restaurant.

                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                          I will definitely be returning--as I said, everything else was great and I have had several other very enjoyable meals there as well. I consider it just an aberration.

                                                                      2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                        Thanks bulavinaka.
                                                                        I loved Mezza. Especially the beef schwarma, and gyro plate. My friend had the chicken and gyro - with no love for the chicken side. The cauliflower and falafel were also very good. Also yummy spicy hummos
                                                                        I look forward to going back.

                                                                        1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                          Can you say a bit more about the gyro? I'm curious about how it compares to the better ones in town, like at Ulysses Voyage, Aliki.

                                                                          Ulysses Voyage
                                                                          6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                                                          1. re: epop

                                                                            Never had those gyros. Loved the ones I ate the streets of NYC from halal venders but otherwise gyro is not a food that is high on my usual radar but damn it was tasty at Mezza. Intense flavor...crispy edges...yum.

                                                                            1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                              it was good, though very heavy.

                                                                            2. re: epop

                                                                              Do Ulysses Voyage and Aliki use that pre-formed, frozen gyro loaf stuff?

                                                                              Ulysses Voyage
                                                                              6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                                                              1. re: Ernie

                                                                                They use the Chicago rotisserie Gyros meats, to my knowledge. There are different grades of it, it seems, because I can't stand the gyros at most places, but like the gyros at these two places (Aliki and Ulysses).

                                                                                I won't eat the ones off the street. I'm glad Ciao Bob lived through it.

                                                                                1. re: epop

                                                                                  I am not familiar with Chicago rotisserie gyro meats.

                                                                                  Does their gyro meat look like this:

                                                                                  Or more like this?

                                                                                  1. re: Ernie

                                                                                    Mezza's gyro is more like your first photo link. Because it's the only meat item on their menu listed as, "not halal," I would have to guess that it is sourced elsewhere. Still, very much worth trying.

                                                                                    Mezza's shwarma is pretty much like the second photo link - the traditional Greek gyro, but of course no pork - it's either beef or chicken - halal.

                                                                            3. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                              Hey Ciao Bob,

                                                                              WOW - so for the most part, they passed muster - glad to hear. I'm guessing it was the chicken shwarma that got no love?

                                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                Yup, that was the only dud, like a good martini, really dry. Looking forward to going back, especially for Nakenek!

                                                                                1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                                  I'm convinced that unless a place that offers chicken shwarma is willing to get some nice grilled chicken skins on top of the chicken or interlace those between the layers of chicken meat (and get a lot of dark meat in there like the thigh) as it turns on the spit and basted with some sort of mop sauce, it's going to be dry. To me, chicken is just not the kind of protein to do like a shwarma unless it's fortified with fat and moisture, and where dark meat is included if not dominant in proportion. I'm guessing that chicken breast is being used in all cases - I think most Hounds are pretty meh about this part on average.

                                                                                  The nakenek is really tasty - those little guys pack a lot of flavor. Have some pita handy as well as some baba ganouj and/or hummus and maybe some tabouleh as well. Those would make a nice little mini-sammy.

                                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                    Just wanted to update on the nakenek. We ordered it the other night and instead of the little sausages being plated neat, they arrived mixed in with some steak fries - good steak fries. And the steak fries appeared to be tossed in the skillet or griddle with the nakenek and some chile to give it a little more seasoning. It's actually a nice pairing - from what I understand, Lebanese love french fries (heck who doesn't?), so this is a natural. Just a heads-up in case you want it one way or the other.

                                                                                2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                  that gyro at mezza was really good though very heavy i wasn't hungry at all for the next four hours or so.

                                                                                  interested to try the kefta next and maybe some of those sausages too.

                                                                                  and i'm the one that didn't really care for their garlic and lemon juice potatoes nor their fried caulliflower.

                                                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                                                    We usually order lots of apps and a few entrees, then share among five to six eaters. I can imagine eating a whole gyro plate and being sated through the next meal. It's a lot, but I'm glad you found it really good.

                                                                                    The kefta is great because although it's cooked through, it's still moist. The seasoning really takes it to another level. If you like the flavors of merguez sausage, I think you'll find the nakenek right up your alley. I think the description in the menu should be revised - it's pretty much a wall flower description for these pretty bold little sausages.

                                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                      yep, i am a fan of merguez, it is a lamb and beef mixture like the merguez.

                                                                                      the best merguez i'v e found and lighter and fluffier than air falafels is at Simon's cafe in sherman oak, right off the sepulveda exit.

                                                                                      i think that's what i'll do next time, the plate of gyro's was more than generous, so if you compare it too cookie-cutter gyro joints, it's quite a deal where those joints have say a gyro sandwich but it's roughly a quarter the aqmount of gyro meat.

                                                                                      1. re: kevin

                                                                                        Thanks for the tip on Simon's in Sherman Oaks.

                                                                                      2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                        oh, one thing, i did want to try a combo plate with gyro and the kefta, but they wouldn't do it. other meats under teh combo plate header, but they wouldn't go for the gyro/kefta combo, don't know why? but other than that the waitress was really sweet, and service was great, and it seems like there are a hel of a lot of repeat customers who can't seem to get enough of the joint. though those hokey bells or belly dancing attire wrapped around the waitresses waists is quite annoying, and detracts a little fromthe rest of teh atmosphere. get rid of those pronto. though my apologies to the hounds that like that sort of thing.

                                                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                                                          I can't comment on their policy toward the combo plate issue - that's their call. It sounds like a winning combination that I can get behind though. And there are lots of repeat customers - starting to actually recognize folks from past visits - pretty bad, huh? :)

                                                                                          We really adore the young lady who has coincidentally served us on each of our visits. Always cordial, remembers any particulars on us, and follows up just enough through the meal to where we aren't left wanting for anything. re: the things around their waists. I find them kinda cute at first, but yeah, I often find that as I'm about to take a bite of something, that jingling noise pulls my attention away just for a moment. It's sort of kitschy as I mentioned above, but I guess it could be a lot worse if Abe was wearing one - no offense to those who like that sort of thing as well, especially Abe. ;)

                                                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                            Imagine how annoying it is to the waitresses themselves!
                                                                                            My waitress (no fan of the jingling) told me they were showing the honchos some chowhound posts about customer dissatisfaction with the annoyance.
                                                                                            So let me say it clearly, "HEY OWNERS OF MEZZA, THE JINGLING, JANGLING WAITRESS THING HAS TO GO."

                                                                                      3. re: kevin

                                                                                        You're lucky it was only 4 hours, Kevin. For me it lingers for the rest of the day. Nature of the beast.

                                                                              2. Have to agree that the jangling is incredibly annoying.

                                                                                Been twice now. terrific Gyro meat but the chicken kebab plate is my favorite. Love that garlic stuff, and the spicy hummus is fantastic. only downside is that portions are truly massive. one plate could feed two or three people. and an appetizer is a meal in itself.

                                                                                the desserts I've sampled are pretty tasty too.

                                                                                1. Don't have too much to add, but just wanted to say we had a great meal there last night (first time). Ordered the Batata Harra, Kafta Kabob for myself and the chicken shawarma for my SO. Everything was great, though I wasn't overly wowed with the Kafta Kabob, but I tried a piece of the shawarma (I usually shy away from chicken shawarma, because it can be dry), but it was really good.

                                                                                  Had enough leftovers for two meals! Great gem in CC.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: mdpilam

                                                                                    Next time try the gyro plate, and you'll have enough leftovers for three meals! :O I'm glad to hear you had a good experience with the chicken shwarma. I've never been a fan of this based on past experiences at other places. Ciao Bob didn't care for the he tried here last week. Who knows - maybe a little bird told sang loud and clear that the bigger bird needed work. I'm hoping your good experience will be par for the course from now on... Thanks for the update.

                                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                      yeah, i just tried the kefta pita sandwich and was not at all wowed. but i did enjoy those steak fries speckle with red pepper flakes.

                                                                                      overall, i think i better just stick to the gyros here, which in my opinion is it's strong suit, i have not tried the beef shwarma though yet.