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Simon's Cafe in Sherman Oaks, a true find

  • k

Café:

Located on a nondescript, desolate, forlorn stretch of Sepulveda Blvd, even though it’s seemingly right across the street from a fashionable Whole Foods super market and mere blocks from the bustling Sherman Oaks Galleria, Simon’s Café usually might serve only a handful of covers on a random weeknight. But don’t let this fool you.

The eponymous Simon, a Moroccan expatriate, is quite the accomplished chef (who had one of the first Moroccan restaurants in Japan and even did some time cooking on a cruise ship years ago), a wizard of deliciousness in the kitchen who can cook up a storm at a moment’s notice. He’s quite modest and affable too, even though his name is emblazoned above the front door in cursive script. It’s his café, after all, but more importantly the small space truly feels like an inviting extension of his own home with artisanal Moroccan carpets providing a little fenestration on the otherwise plain, white walls.

There’s a pithy, perfunctory one-page wine list with a few token vintage Chateau Lafitte Rothschild wines listed as “MP” for the heavy hitters amongst us.

But you’re really here for the food.

He cooks deceptively simple (though labor-intensive) Moroccan cuisine from a luscious, rich, ambrosial tagine that perfumes the better part of the room as the waiter lifts and whisks away the pyramid-shape top leaving a plume of gustatory vapor to ignite your taste buds even before a bite is devoured. The tagine is a hearty, blissfully tasty stew, with prunes and a myriad of other fruits to add top notes of curated sweetness. His couscous amounts to pure loveliness with various vegetables interlaced with the mouth-watering, toothsome grains.

His merguez sausages, which he mentions is made with hand ground beef and lamb and addictive spices, are quite delicious and may even transport you back to Marrakech for a few minutes.

Most of the dishes have a true depth of flavor and attest to the veteran skills of the chef. A true labor of love if you will.

Truth to tell, one of the best dishes on the brief menu is a Middle Eastern combination platter composed of freshly fried falafel, baba ghanouj, a suave hummus splashed with olive oil, a spiced though not spicy muttabal, and a chunky tomato “salsa” for a lack of a better term. All are delicious. And yet the falafel balls, freshly made from scratch, mixed to order, and then fried are ethereally light, scrumptious, balls of garbanzo bean delight. Some almost melt in your mouth like an ultra-fatty morsel of o-toro sushi.

Even dessert is great here from a textbook-perfect chocolate mousse to a green tea crème brulee to a unique though delicious oddity: eggplant poached in rosewater syrup. Yes, eggplant. Who knew that eggplant could actually work as a dessert? Perhaps it’s a fruit after all.

After dinner, the room may still remain quite empty, though in the end it’s all about the food. The food’s the thing. And Simon’s Café lovingly reveals that.

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  1. It's been yrs since I've been to Simon's Cafe, but every meal I had there was lovely. I don't understand why the place is STILL empty! I did go once when it was quite full (and Simon actually seemed a little overwhelmed and curt), but otherwise my small party was usually the only one there. A shame. Hopefully, your post will convince others to try it!

    5 Replies
    1. re: paranoidgarliclover

      yeah, i hope it can survive.

      this is one joint that would be great to have an infusion of new customers.

      1. re: paranoidgarliclover

        Paranoia when were you last there ?????

        1. re: kevin

          Oh, god, it must've been at least 4-6 yrs ago, probably. =( Used to live in the area but couldn't afford to eat there regularly, at the time. ;) Still work in the area, but I usually am high-tailing back home after I'm done.

          Ate there maybe 2-3 times? What I really liked about the place (aside from the taste, which was very good) is that it really felt like someone had cooked a meal in their home for you. And Simon seemed very sweet.

          1. re: paranoidgarliclover

            "it really felt like someone had cooked a meal in their home for you. And Simon seemed very sweet."

            exactly.

            couldn't have said it better myself.

            1. re: paranoidgarliclover

              you're right, prices are not cheap but fair.

          1. re: nosh

            Are you sure? Their website shows a lunch menu.

            1. re: Bob Brooks

              They are open for lunch from 11:30 to 2:30 as far as I know, Tuesday through Friday, but on the weekend they only do dinner. Like so many places they need the lunch business from the surrounding businesses.

              1. re: Bob Brooks

                They have reduced (all but eliminated) lunch to one day a week. Friday's from 11:30 to 2:30 is it for lunch.

                1. re: Servorg

                  Poor guy, that's not a good sign. I say we do a Chowhound lunch there on the soonest Friday everyone is available.......

                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                    Make it happen, dirty! =) Although weekend works better for me.... ;) Ahem.

                    Simon is not young, so I actually wonder if he's reduced his hours b/c he simply wants to?

                    1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                      you know my policy... except for work, I only go to the valley November through March. And even then, only the "Sushi Row," or if DWEO is holding court.

                      --Johnny Drama

                      1. re: jessejames

                        Well, November is only 3 mo away. Unless DWEO works as fast as J.L., it could take that long to get us to all agree to a date. ;)

                        1. re: jessejames

                          Ok. JJ. Is out. I guess.

                          Can't fight those rules and regulations.

                          1. re: jessejames

                            And why only November thru March ???????

                            Btw. You're losing out on a considerable number of good eats.

                            Now I'm getting hungry for those dope falafels again.

                              1. re: kevin

                                Because it is so hot in the Valley, going only
                                during the JJ time frame keeps one from heat stroke and passing out!

                                Had to go to the Valley today, so went at 8AM; for my return home to Topanga, the temp in
                                the Valley (Woodland Hills) was 96 degrees at 10AM in early September.

                                1. re: chrishei

                                  you can make it over man, come on.

                                  don't be a baby. :)

                                  1. re: chrishei

                                    you can make it over man, come on.

                                    don't be a baby. :)

                                2. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                  It's true. He ain't exactly young .... Perhaps young at heart is more like it.

                                  And that ain't no joke.

                                  Now Dirty get to work already in setting this darn thing up. :)

                                  1. re: kevin

                                    For reals? It probably won't happen before October at this point... September is filling up.... No wait, I can probably squeeze it in on a
                                    Fri day in Sept.... Stand by and I'll try to set something up.

                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                      Ok I have an email address up on my profile page. I can't go to check out the place before Friday 9/5. I will set up a new topic about a chow meet after that. You can email me with suggestions if you like before that. Will keep you all posted.

                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                        Is Saturday definitely out? The only reason I ask is b/c Friday lunch is generally impossible for me to make. =(

                                        1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                          No, not at all.... We can do a Saturday, do you prefer lunch or dinner? In the end we'll do what the majority prefers.....

                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                            Ooh, I vote for Saturday late-ish lunch! Will send you an e-mail shortly.

                                            1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                              Lunch is Fridays only. I called and confirmed.

                                            2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                              Count me in for Saturday dinner. I live walking distance from there and can't believe I've only been there once in all the years I've lived in the nabe. Way overdue for a return visit.

                                              1. re: medrite

                                                DWEO,

                                                You will never get a unanimous vote. Clear the idea of a lunch or dinner with the owner. Select a couple of dates and times. Have a vote. Go with the winner.

                                                You need to get this done fairly soon or all momentum will be lost and the board will go on to a new focus. You also need to work out the meal: set menu or order? Sit down service or buffet? And to avoid potential financial disaster for the restaurant (or you) you need to get financial commitment (check) from those who reserve.

                                                This is why the get-together early this year at O'Brien's succeeded: Hounds could come and go, drink and/or eat as they wished, and it was fine with the venue. The proposed dinner at Guido's never happened because many didn't want to deal with the restrictions and expense. The dinner at Clusi Batusi was a success because everyone agreed to the menu being chosen and prepared by the chef.

                                                Just my two cents. (As the hound who ended the discussion leading up to Guido's or O'Brien's and brought a decision to a head; recognizing another made arrangements with O'Brien's owner.)

                                                1. re: nosh

                                                  Yes, I intended to go to Simon's and bring up the idea with the chef first. But with my schedule, I cannot make it over there before Friday 9/5....

                                                  So if anyone wants to head over there and discuss it with him before that, feel free! My email is on my profile page.

                                                  1. re: nosh

                                                    nosh, thanks for your input, man.

                                                2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                  And thanks for doing the leg work on this one.

                                                  Btw, is dinner a possibility if Simon's joint is only open for lunch on Fridays ???????

                                                  His website might not be updated.

                                    2. re: Servorg

                                      Thanks Sevrog for your expert Internety research skills.

                                      Btw. Have you been before ?????

                                  2. re: nosh

                                    The website is ambiguous. There is a lunch menu to click on and display. The hours listed in the upper right only offer dinner.

                                    I'd call before heading there for a weekday lunch. If you do call, suggest they amend their website.

                                  3. Great review Kevin.... Now I must find the time to try it....

                                    1. .....King Kevin. Seems like a find.

                                      1. I also like Simon's, but don't get there as often as I'd like. Thank you for reminding me of it. I always go for lunch. I've never been there for dinner. At lunch I'm usually at one of two occupied tables. Sometimes we're the only customers. But the food's still fresh, including his homemade mint iced tea.

                                        1. Sold. I wanna go. Great report Kev.

                                          1. We like this place a lot. Everything is always good, but i particularly like the salmon. and the desserts are all made by simon, so what you get is what he's made. i can still taste the sour cherry tart .. just amazing.

                                            1. Just a note

                                              It aint cheap.

                                              But more than worth it in my opinion.

                                              1. Just a thought, shoot me an email if you are interested. I'd like to give him a tentative number of how many are interested. If it ends up at about less than ten, which is fine, then I'd recommend we all just meet there for lunch or dinner one night, and not bother with setting up a pay pal, etc.... I'd rather not have to do it that way anyway, but I will if there's a huge interest in it.

                                                So far, I think I have about four, including myself. JJ, are you in??? Even if it's not November???

                                                12 Replies
                                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                    I'm down.

                                                    Count me in. the head count.

                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                      interested for sure. Did I miss the date?

                                                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                        no set date yet. but Dirty is working on it i think.

                                                        just down in general i guess for a day in september.

                                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                            :)

                                                            Thanks.

                                                            You did what I couldn't do. no joke.

                                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                          I'm in, and if 9/5 lunch is an option, I will put it on the calendar, just in case it might happen.
                                                          Otherwise, advance dinner thoughts are welcome.

                                                          1. re: carter

                                                            Sure! The 9/5 lunch is an informal one as I was going to use it check out the place and see what we could work out with the owner, for a later date. But come meet us if you're up for it.... Don't have a time set, so stay tuned.

                                                        2. a nice lil bump for chow meet purposes.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                            Are you up for checking it out on 9/5 at lunchtime with me?

                                                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                              I could probably join you on fri 9/5 for lunch if you'd like.

                                                              1. re: nosh

                                                                Oh that would be great! Send me an email, and we can firm it up that week....

                                                          2. As it turns out, I am now required to attend a school meeting mid morning on Friday, and it would make it impossible to go to lunch and get back to school in time for my kids dismissal time.

                                                            If the rest of you still choose to go, great! Please let us know how it is and your opinions as to whether it will work for a Chowhound lunch or dinner or not.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                              Sorry to hear about that! I can't go, but I look forward to hearing if it'll work out!

                                                                1. re: JAB

                                                                  i cant' make it this Friday, either.

                                                                  too much crap to take care of for a long, bucolic, pastoral lunch repast.

                                                                  and i don't do well in setting these events.

                                                                  JABs, down to set up a future event ?????????????????????????????????????

                                                              1. Did anyone go there for lunch today?

                                                                To be learned -- When there is excitement about a place, we need to act then. When we let it go over a month, things interfere and enthusiasm dies.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: nosh

                                                                  Sorry I couldn't make it, I had a school obligation that would not have gotten me out and back to school in time for dismissal.

                                                                  I am still up to try them for lunch, but since they are only open one day of seven for lunch, life can get in the way sometimes, especially with kids......

                                                                  Maybe I'll just have to go by myself and report back then , whenever that will be.