Posted by Louis Keene
A place where a man may inhale a carne asada taco (or three) without having to repent come October.
8.15.12 at 2:24 pm | Carne asada tacos with black beans and yellow. . .
8.14.12 at 4:18 am | Our food; ourselves.
8.10.12 at 5:37 pm | The sous chef doesn't say much, but sure knows. . .
8.10.12 at 5:48 am | A relatively new Persian restaurant with a short. . .
8.3.12 at 5:32 am | Shanghai's Hunan Beef and Sliced Fish With. . .
7.27.12 at 6:41 am | The problem with kosher restaurants giving bad. . .
8.10.12 at 5:48 am | A relatively new Persian restaurant with a short. . . (4)
8.10.12 at 5:37 pm | The sous chef doesn't say much, but sure knows. . . (1)
8.15.12 at 2:24 pm | Carne asada tacos with black beans and yellow. . . (1)
August 14, 2012 | 4:18 am
Posted by Louis Keene
Something about being a claustrophobic high school upperclassman lent itself to my spending Saturday nights at Bibi’s Warmstone Bakery and Cafe back in my Shalhevet heyday. I wasn’t alone at the little Israeli joint on the corner of Pico and Livonia, of course – that was the spot when we were 16, 17 years old, too old for the Grove but not old enough for Crown Bar. Haha.
Bibi’s was almost unfairly low-priced when it first opened around 2005. I distinctly remember eating there several times a week one summer. You could get a personal pizza fired up in minutes, or a sambusak (which looks like a giant samosa or turnover) stuffed with potato, corn, and mushroom.
Everyone had his trademark order. My buddy Bain always got the feta toastee, a Jerusalem bagel sandwich of feta cheese and olives. My dad would get the sambusak pizza, filled with gooey mozzarella and tomato sauce so hot you would exhale steam.
The dankness extended to Saturday nights, when Bibi’s was open wee-er hours than any other spot in the circuit. Hours spent outside without supervision were a rare commodity growing up in the hood. Bibi’s filled that niche perfectly maybe even intentionally, and then we went running away to colleges far/wide, to full beards and internships without looking back.
So then I would look back. I returned to Bibi’s years later to see if it still attracted the same crowd on motzei Shabbos. I find that the menu has undergone a slight overhaul since I last burnt my tongue at the Warmstone.
The sambusaks, formerly pre-stuffed and waiting to be thrown in the oven, are now fully customizable with your choice of cheese (feta or mozzarella) and vegetarian accoutrements (mushroom, jalapeño, garlic sauce, etc.). Toastees work the same way, although the cafe suggests popular combinations.
My order was a throwback – sambusak with potato, mozzarella, corn, and tomato, which had actually been off the menu until the new owner, Dan Messinger, took over. He tells me about eighty percent of the menu has remain unchanged since the change in management. His goal is primarily to shore up the customer experience, which had been lacking (you can now charge your credit card with transactions under ten dollars!).
The taste is familiar, as is my instant recoil from first sinking my teeth into the zatar-topped sambusak—too hot! But outstanding. And worth it – the personal pizza, which I had ordered earlier that week, was great too and a bargain at only $3.50.
As Bain and I enjoyed our late-night bites, we faced an exceedingly present reality that we were too old to be there. Our old haunts were now overrun by a bunch of…us. Outside the restaurant, boys trying out pickup lines perfected on their side of the mechitza; girls shrieking, eyes widened, in the moment.
It was good to see some things haven’t changed, but it left us wondering where our niche is around this neighborhood, if we have one. Now that we’re about to graduate, to run away again to who knows where, we should probably get our trademark orders to-go.
August 10, 2012 | 5:37 pm
Posted by Louis Keene
The sous chef doesn’t speak much, but sure knows how to slice and dice.
You get a week’s worth of Vitamin A for only four bucks. Mango, orange, watermelon, jicama, cucumber, cantaloupe, and pineapple fill up a bag that you can shower with lemon juice, chili powder, and/or salt. For five bucks you get even more.
The stand is operated every weekday and only serves raw fruit, so plenty customers stop by in yarmulkes looking for a healthy burst of sugar. May not work with the South Beach Diet, but what do I know.
Oh yeah, and the fruit is delicious. Crunchy; juicy still.
August 10, 2012 | 5:48 am
Posted by Louis Keene
So, I had been at this Eating Pico project for several weeks now, and the time had come to change pace. So following up on a recommendation from Jewish Journal staff writer Julie Fax, I took my mother and sister out to try Kabab Mahaleh, a year-and-a-half-old family-owned Persian establishment tucked under the arm of Eilat Market.
Strolling in at two o’clock on a weekday afternoon, we got one of the last free tables. The restaurant was abuzz with Farsi as at least twenty people were seated with their food when we arrived. More arrived after us to order food to go or to pick up large orders of sangak, the popular naan-like flat bread that underscores any kabab at Kabab Mahaleh.
I wouldn’t know what to choose even from their simple menu of koobideh and kabob, but this was partially because my menu was printed in Farsi! For guidance I asked the cashier, who kindly flipped it onto the side printed in English and recommended we try their beef koobideh and the chicken thigh kabob.
The nearly twenty-minute wait to receive our food was tempered by Mahaleh’s miraculously low prices ($5.99 for the beef plate) and the fact that the place was packed. Really, I was impressed. While we waited, the kitchen workers fired up an immense sangak that might have measured four feet long, baking it in a gigantic aluminum (?) warmstone oven behind the counter that looked like it was borrowed from the set of Willy Wonka. Honestly, you just have to see it.
When the food did arrive, it was terrific. The beef maintained appropriate texture and was cooked just long enough to give it the right amount of saltiness. The chicken’s tanginess made it the winner even though it was more expensive ($8.99), and the tomatoes and onions added the right amount of moisture to the mix. The sangak, which also comes on the side (and the restaurant should give it to customers while they wait), serves as the magic carpet, absorbing all the different tastes before finally following them down the esophagus.
The mid-sized restaurant activated test buds that had lay dormant since my high school years, when my buddy’s mom would serve up pungent bowls of ghormeh sabzi as we settled down in front of his PlayStation. (Madden was our game of choice back then. Also, how’s that for romantic imagery! Momma’s finest cooking plus videogames!)
Even my sister Hannah—a notoriously picky eater—surrendered her phobia of foreign foods momentarily to revel in Kabab Mahaleh’s perfect poultry. And by this I mean she literally wouldn’t let me have a second bite.
Why not go someplace new? I recommend this restaurant and certainly will be returning soon. See you there!
Cheap, casual, and good for kids.
August 3, 2012 | 5:32 am
Posted by Louis Keene
I hadn’t been to Shanghai Diamond Garden in years. That’s because I’ve never been a fan of Chinese food, but their orange chicken always brings me back. This time with family, however, I decided to try something different. The Hunan Beef was not nearly as spicy as advertised; in fact, it didn’t even taste like it was supposed to be spicy. The sliced fish with asparagus had a little more energy about it.
What puzzles me about Shanghai is that its patrons always seem underdressed. When I was in high school and walking there after night seder with a few buddies, it never occurred to me that our school uniforms didn’t suffice the same way they did next door at Nagila. That’s partly because I didn’t know any better, but also because the kids at the booth next to us were wearing t-shirts!
Not much has changed at Shanghai since its opened in the mid-2000s —same menu, same healthy amount of traffic on a Wednesday night, same kids wearing graphic tees and ripped jeans. It happens, I guess, but why does it happen at Shanghai? How does a restaurant change that culture without confronting a customer? Does Shanghai even want to?
Unrelated: file into the great ideas cabinet/incubator - Kosher Restaurant Week! (Why has no one thought of this?)