A big thank you to Westsidegal for your persistence and determination in pimping the eggplant salads at Itzik Hagadol. We finally cashed in on my soon-to-be-expiring Groupon, and we loved it.
For those who haven't been, it's the Israeli place in Encino (Bev Hills location on Canon Drive coming "soon", though even the owner doesn't know when). They're known for the neverending panoply of 20 hot and cold "salads" which is $17.99 as a stand-alone dish or $8.99 if you buy an entree. So, it's pricey-- it's hard for us to not think of Elena's spectacular combo or chicken kebab plates for $8-$10 when eating Mediterranean food, and that does distract a bit. But the salads are really the draw here, and although I do feel it's too expensive, it's good enough that we'd return.
We had a very good experience last night-- although some of the salads seemed like afterthoughts (one of the cooked tomato dishes tasted like we were eating lumpy tomato paste), most of the salads were quite good, and we did especially enjoy the eggplant-- in particular the baba ghanouj which was wonderfully silky and smoky, and the ratatouille-like dish of "picante" eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini, which my Lovely Tasting Assistant™ (LTA™) claims she could eat "every day for the rest of her life." The thin, rectangular slabs of fried eggplant were also wonderfully silky on the inside with a beautiful outer crunch-- not greasy, and a great counterpoint to the freshness of the salads. Sadly, the bread was not fresh (I should have asked for a fresh one as the server was really gracious in that gruff and slightly boasting Israeli way- you could tell he loved the food there).
We also ordered the lamb patties ($16.99) and the house kebab ($11.99)-- a lulu-style mince kebab. Both were unfortunately charred and the lamb patties were ever so slightly dry, but the seasoning in both was spot on. So the cooking was a little sloppy-- we'll need to be clearer about that next time.
Definitely recommend a visit, Groupon or not. On our next visit, my wife will be ordering a giant bowl of the Israeli ratatouille and will likely not share with me.