Los Angeles Confidential - - Contents - BY KATHRYN ROMEYN

The lat­est foodie craze? The city’s top chefs bring the cui­sine of one desert to an­other.


Thanks to a spate of buzzy chefs—some with tra­di­tional fam­ily recipes in their apron pock­ets—the ex­quis­ite fla­vors in­dige­nous to Le­banon, Is­rael, Pales­tine, and Morocco are LA’s hottest food trend. Al­ready an­tic­i­pated for this year: Bes­tia chef Ori Me­nashe’s as-yet-un­named DTLA trib­ute to Is­rael, where he was raised, and the Alex Chang-helmed Ex­change, in­side the Free­hand ho­tel (free­hand ho­tels.com/los-an­ge­les/ the-ex­change), which will show­case the fla­vors of ur­ban LA through an Israeli lens.

Last year, Soho House’s Nava (so­ho­housewh.com/ food-and-drink) be­came the brand’s first Mid­dle East­ern con­cept, blend­ing the tastes of Jerusalem and Beirut (fattoush, tab­bouleh, lamb kofta) via lo­cally sourced pro­duce. And Le­banese chef Yousef Gha­laini was quick to rec­og­nize LA’s ea­ger­ness to sam­ple fla­vors from his youth when he re­vamped the Fair­mont Santa Monica’s FIG (figsan­ta­mon­ica.com), which of­fers main­stays like lamb shank with pome­gran­ate mo­lasses and a za’atar­dusted bread “bal­loon” with dips, plus sea­sonal high­lights—for spring, manouche flat­breads are baked in the wood-burn­ing oven be­fore be­ing fin­ished with spring peas and ten­drils, cured Meyer lemon, hal­loumi, and za’atar.

“I think what drives the con­ver­sa­tion is that all this eth­nic food fits into [SoCal] health trends,” says Gha­laini. “Gluten-free,

veg­e­tar­ian, sea­sonal.” An­other boon is that pro­duce at the heart of Mid­dle East­ern cuisines grows read­ily in LA: In the city’s farm­ers’ mar­kets, egg­plant—a sta­ple of Per­sian, Le­banese, Egyp­tian, and Iraqi dishes—is on the rise in vary­ing heir­loom shades and shapes, and pre­vi­ously ob­scure purslane now holds pride of place along­side arugula and spinach.

The lat­est ad­di­tions to the scene are cour­tesy of fa­mil­iar names like Jon Shook and Vinny Do­tolo (An­i­mal, Trois Mec), op­er­a­tional part­ners in brand-new Los Feliz res­tau­rant Kis­met (kismetla.com). The 45-seat con­cept, by chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hy­man­son of Grand Cen­tral Mar­ket falafel joint Mad­capra (mad­capra.com), takes ma­jor in­spi­ra­tion from the re­gion’s cook­ing in terms of fla­vor and vi­brancy. The break­fast, lunch, and din­ner plates are meant to be shared and eaten with the hands.

And in Jan­uary, LA restau­ra­teur Ge­orge Abou-Daoud—who owns Sil­ver Lake’s mod­ern Mid­dle East­ern eatery Bow­ery Bun­ga­low (bow­ery­bun­ga­low.com)— de­buted Farida (farida res­tau­rant.com), named for his grand­mother. At the new Sun­set Boule­vard res­tau­rant, he’s el­e­vat­ing Mid­dle East­ern in­gre­di­ents with un­con­ven­tional spins on tra­di­tion, such as pair­ing spicy, Puerto Ri­can to­stones with green harissa and lab­neh, and Pales­tinian chicken musakhan with sumac­caramelized onions, pine nuts, and flat­bread. Says Abou-Daoud, “I want to bet­ter peo­ple’s per­cep­tion of what Mid­dle East­ern cui­sine re­ally is. Food ex­presses cul­ture, and it’s the best way we all con­nect.” Amen and amin to that.

View from the top: Ever-cool Soho House West Hol­ly­wood’s Nava res­tau­rant (IN­SET BE­LOW) drives its east­ern Mediter­ranean cui­sine— such as oc­to­pus roasted in a wood-fired oven and fin­ished with but­ter beans, cel­ery, and red chili—with SoCal’s...

East­side story: From the res­tau­ra­teurs of An­i­mal and Trois Mec comes Kis­met, a Los Feliz Mid­dle East­ern resto where the chefs be­hind Grand Cen­tral Mar­ket’s best falafel present fresh, straight­for­ward fare, such as fried cau­li­flower with ca­per-stud­ded...

In­side Santa Monica’s Fair­mont Mi­ra­mar, FIG (in­set above cen­ter) serves up the gluten­free, veg-driven fare that “fits into SoCal health trends,” says Ye­meni chef Yousef Gha­laini, along­side heartier dishes such as a grilled grass-fed lamb shank with...

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