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Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Hayat's Kitchen:Serious Lebanese home cooking returns,but don't call it a comeback
Hassan Shatila and wife,Hayat Fahed, have been making great Lebanese food in the Valley since 1982. You may recall their Cafe Mediterranean restaurant in Toluca Lake. Michelle Huneven of the LA Times, had given them a great review back in 1990.
Cafe Mediterranean became an entertainment industry favorite back then and at one point they'd expanded the size of their restaurant and installed a buffet to meet the needs of the hustle and bustle of the studio lunch crowd.
After 18 years in business, they closed and moved on to other things in 2000, until about 5 months ago when they resurfaced as Hayat's Kitchen.There were catering events in between but they never stopped cooking, and the food is better than ever.
Kibbe nayeh,just like your Lebanese mother makes. The stuff daydreams are made of.
Hassan and Hayat have been in the business for more than 30 years, Hassan is the baker and Hayat is the chef. Their food is home style Lebanese,straightforward and deeply delicious.They are tucked in the back of a strip mall at the corner of Burbank Bl. and Vineland, sharing a lot with Colo's Argentine meat market, a banquet hall, a smoke shop, and a nice little produce market where the register often shuts down a moment for a shot of Armenian coffee.
The cold appetizers here are dreamy,with flavors delightfully in balance. The vegetarian combo is a fine way to sample Hayat's craft. And the kibbie nayeh(raw meat)? I've been looking for an equivalent to the one they used to have at Pasha years ago, and this is it.Just the delicious result of fresh ingredients and a sage hand.The fatoosh salad is a delicious, rustic home style salad, lightly tart with lime, bracing, and pure.
Fresh baked fatayers of cheese, spinach, and safiha(meat)are perfect savories to start your meal.
Makanek, little spicy homemade sausages are crisp, complex bites of pork well suited for stuffing in a tear of pita. These are lovely.
The foul mudammas(fava and garbanzos in garlic)is garlic intensive and served warm. The combination of soft beans, warmth, garlic, and oily richness surpass decadence.
The foul is so delicious, but the fatteh bi laban is a whole other delight to the senses.It combines the textures of crisp toasted pita, grilled meat, creamy yogurt, and crunchy pine nuts. This dish seems like interesting enough from the menu's description, but seeing it up close is a foodie lotto win.
Hayat's meats have come off the grill everytime I've dined there,consistently tender, juicy and seasoned just right. I especially love the filet mignon and chicken.The grilled plates come with grilled tomatoes, onions, or maybe a jalapeno. It's whatever Hayat has handy.Just surprise me.Fresh, raw onion and golden fries round out your meal.
The usual photos of Lebanon are posted in this humble space, with a comfortable outdoor patio set up for fair weather dining and the hookah set.It's very charming and gets a good crowd of the local Lebanese community, and some friends from their Cafe Mediterranean days as they gradually are rediscovering their long lost chef and baker.
Be sure to ask what the special of the day is before you order. They're not posted, perhaps someday, but those in the know will be well rewarded. On one evening they had kafta bi ssanieh,a Lebanese meatloaf so lovely from Hayat's oven.
A strong Lebanese coffee is always a pleasant way to cap your meal,Hayat's makes a nice dense version make with quality grinds.
But, do try Hassan's finger baklava, maybe the best I've ever had. He has a full dessert menu, all treats are baked from scratch on the premises. Deep flavors permeate these desserts, sans the usual insipid sugariness.
Skaf's and Hayat's are both neighborhood restaurants for me, and I, like so many, adore Skaf's Grill. While I can't put my finger on it,they are both great restaurants, I find myself coming back to Hayat's again and again. In some things like grilling they match up well, but in others....the home cooking that we all crave from the gifted women cooks throughout the world's kitchens is right here at Hayat's Kitchen, a new treasure to grace the North Hollywood culinary scene.
11009 Burbank Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Catering available too!