6 Restaurants Where You’ll Fall in Love with Los Angeles’s Israeli Food Craze
Long, hot, dry summers. Short, rainy winters. A dry wind that rolls over the hills and drives everyone crazy. That’s L.A. for you… and also Israel. So it’s no surprise that with the same climate, we’d have a similar appetite. That’s why the town’s most talked-about new restaurants are turning out small plates with the brightness of preserved lemon, the herbal spark of za’atar and the fragrance of mint, among other flavors, reassembled in creative new ways. Here’s where you’ve got to try this newly fashionable—and perennially delicious—cuisine.
Bavel in Arts District, DTLA
The star chefs behind Italian restaurant Bestia know how to attract a beautiful crowd of fashion and media types with their friendly service and perfectly balanced flavors. Here, they are inspired by Middle Eastern flavors, creating inventive, original dishes: the foie gras halva, for example, is a creamy pâté dotted with date paste like the sweet Middle Eastern dessert it’s named for, served with irresistible charred sesame toast.
500 Mateo St.; 213-232-4966 or baveldtla.com
It’s a place full of Silverlake affectation, including a seemingly unpronounceable name (it’s “meh zeh”), lack of website and corrugated cardboard rounds used as plates. And yet this little coal-fire-based dinner-only restaurant is so worth visiting for the creamy butter-like consistency and delicate flavor of its hummus and for the lamb ragout, chunks of lamb in a tart yogurt sauce brightened with preserved lemon. You’ll need to wait in line (there are no reservations), but consider it ample time to spot the new fashion crazes among the hip crowd.
3536 Sunset Blvd.; @Mhzh.la
Middle Eastern food made with a Cali light touch, an emphasis on sourcing from local growers and dishes as tasty as they are Instagram-friendly have earned this Los Feliz restaurant a spot on Bon Appetit’s national best new restaurant list. Perfect meal: Order a glass of orange wine to go with your Little Gem salad with sprouted lentils and green coriander vinaigrette before diving into one of the lemony chicken and pine nut pies.
4648 Hollywood Blvd.; 323-409-0404 or kismetlosangeles.com
Jaffa on West Third Street
Recently opened, this spot is already packing them in on West Third Street. It’s a great place to hang out and watch the shoppers trail by, whether you arrive in time to brunch over an egg-and-tomato shakshuka or have a late lunch with a lavash sandwich of pickled veggies and chicken, beef or lamb. Insider tip: A light dinner of North African chickpea stew outside accompanied by a glass of icy white wine outside on the covered patio is your summer dinner sweet spot.
8048 West Third St.; 323-433-4978 or jaffa.la
The Exchange in DTLA
There are three reasons to visit: One, the delightful space with its glowing medley of blue and warm wood tones courtesy of design stars Roman and Williams. Two, the chraime, a sort of Sephardic bouillabaisse, here spiced up with charred tomatillo. And three, the fact that it’s in the fun, budget-friendly boutique hotel the Freehand, so there’s energy aplenty—and call for a nightcap at the rooftop poolside bar after dinner.
416 W. Eighth St.; 213-395-9531 or freehandhotels.com
Madcapra at Grand Central Market, DTLA
So maybe you just want a sandwich for lunch. Then order the falafel at Madcapra, because it’s the big, carefully constructed platonic ideal of that humble sandwich. Instead of pita, the bread is super-soft spice-dusted flatbread, while fresh herbs and pickled vegetables replace the lackluster iceberg and unripe tomato you get in ordinary falafels. The internal hummus is augmented with labneh (a yogurt-like cheese), and the falafel itself is chopped into cubes and then fried, so there's maximum crunch per bite.
317 S. Broadway; madcapra.com