We needed to find a place to celebrate our nephew's birthday. The new Mandaloun in Glendale seemed perfect.
Mandaloun - Lebanese for arched windows, often in triplets and possibly a derivative of mandolin (folk lore connection is young lovers serenading on mandolins below mandalouns!) - is an elegant space in Glendale, just off the busy Brand Blvd. We ended up taking the service entrance on Harvard, and later discovered the main entrance is on Maryland. There is public parking across from the entrance, and they validate.
Ara greeted us near the kitchen with a pleasant but quizzzical smile and "How Did You Get Here?" - there is an outside terrace, which looked comfortable last night, but it is also meant for smoking hookahs, so we decided to sit inside. The restaurant was less than 50% full.
The menu is quite extensive with cold and hot appetizer sections, soups and salads, meshwi (grilled meats), Lebanese specials etc. We chose the set price platters so we did not have to pick, being not very familiar with Lebanese food. Two caveats: the minimum order for the platters is 4 (we were 4); and be hungry, be VERY hungry when you choose this option.
Our Wadi El Safi platter ($24.95/person) had Homos, Baba Gannouj, Tabouleh, Fatoush, Warak Enab, Kibbeh Nayeh, Kabis, Foul, Balila, Kibbeh Makli, Soujouk, Falafel, Mix Grill & Chicken & Beef Shawarma, Ashta and Coffee. We ordered the salted yogurt drink Than (did not have the advertised mint!), iced tea and Jallab (iced tea with grape molasses and rose water).
The appetizers kept coming for quite a while. The Baba Ganouj and Hommos were outstanding - I have never had them so flavorful (I usually visit Sahara in Pasadena and the other big Lebanese place on Main in Alhambra for comparison). We used their freshly baked pita for scooping them up - this bread is exceptional - it was puffy and warm when brought to our table, and had a crunchier texture than regular pita served at other restaurants.
The Tabouleh and Fatoush were also very good - somewhat more citrusy than I am used to, but had a good combination of spices as flavor enhancers.
The grape leaves (Warak Enab) were nothing special - I did not find any vegetables or nuts in the rice. The Foul and Fateh were also pedestrain, and needed salt to wake up any flavor notes.
The Kibbeh Makli (beef dumplings with bulghur, onions and nuts), Soujouk (spicy Armenian sausage with onions and tomatoes) and Kibbeh Nayeh (could not tell exactly what it was - reddish with the texture of very dry mashed potatoes) were outstanding! They had mistakenly served us two plates of the Makli - I wish the platter had more of that.
The mixed grill (beef, shawerma, and chicken) was excellent - served with the regulation grilled tomatoes, rice and spiced onion mixture. Coming from India where the sheesh and other kebabs are much more spicy, the Lebanese grilled meats seem not very exciting. But it was a good compliment to the rest of the meal.
The service was poor - this was a sour note for our table. The waitress was not helpful in deciphering the menu and the servers (Hispanic) had no clue what they were setting down on the table. When we asked the passing waitress what the dishes were, she reluctantly recited them, with a tinge of impatience. Our tip reflected our level of service.
Ara came around once to ask how things were - but he was hovering over other tables of presumed regulars all the time.
Next time, we will order from the a la carte menu - now that we know what of the regular menu items are must have dishes. Their Lebanese specialty section seems very interesting - ground beef with eggs, lamb tongue, lamb brain, chicken liver with pomegranate juice etc.
They have an extensive wine list - we did not order any because of the teenager and young adult at the table.