Survey of ground meat-ish middle-eastern-ish things I have had lately.
Benchmark: best kebab-ish thing I've had ever is probably at my friend Ara the Armenian's birthday party, where it was made by a man famous in the family for:
1. Having fished with dynamite in his childhood
2. Making great kebab.
Also, his name, translated, means Revenge. I think this is cool.
Best kebab-ish thing I've had in a publically available place is at Elena's (Helena's?) - Greek/Armenian. Even better were the lamb chops. I have written of this in the past. But this is far from where I live. Luckily, I live near Little Armenia and work near the Westwood middle-easternish, so have had much chance to search. Nothing stupendous, a la Elena's, but:
First the usual. Zankou's. Regular schwarma is kind of OK-ish, but chicken schwarma is way better - hunks of roasty chicken, with garlic paste and a strong cinnamon/clove flavor. Satisfying. Very different from the roast chicken experience. I have been told that the tarna here is better - I have not tried it.
Carousel. Armenian place. Definitely got way less love in the food than Elena's. Everything is decent, but no magical oomph. My Armenian resources tell me that the Glendel Carousel is better - I have not tried.
There is a big outside-grill place in the same court as Carousel in Hollywood, but I have not yet tried it. Looks good though.
Sahag's Basturma. I have loved the Basturma long here. He recently warned me that he's going over to pure deli mode, and won't really make sandwiches much anymore, though he might in a slow moment. This is sad. But, on the ground meat front: great sojouk here. This is Armenian sausage. Tight, crunchy, deeply flavored. Intense. Similar, in overall effect, to the dry/crunchy/spicy blast of Guelaguetza's chorizo.
Arax: Schwarma! Great! Thanks, russkar, for this. Moist innards, crisp outside, full flavor. Excitingly good.
All right: over to the Westwood area:
I have been strangely disappointed here, on the traditionals of persion ground meat front, mostly.
Sunnin: Their hummous is the best hummous I have ever had. Silky. The ground meat/bulgher thing I love deeply - I wrote about it a while ago - beef with a warm brown wheaty flavor. But the schwarma is kind of flavorless and limp, and the pita is kind of sad.
Aladdin Falafal. Once they had great schwarma and pita (or some other flatbread substance.) A year and a half ago, everything changed. Now depressing.
Ohaam grill: Had the koobideh - a long hunk of ground meat. Incredibly juicy, but strangely completely flavorless. Really! No flavor whatsoever! Creeped me out. Almost couldn't finish. But the rice - saffroned, very individual kernels - was insanely good. Full, warm, perfectly salted rice flavor. Some of it was heavily saffroned, some not saffroned at all. Different cooking vessels, I'm sure. Wow. Besides the rice, pretty mediocre.
Sch something Grill. (Not Scherezad Flame. The other big one on Westwood that just relocated that was written up here by some people two weeks ago). Also the koobideh. Dry-ish, limp-ish, some meat flavor, not much. I've had great koobideh's... elsewhere. I can't remember. Anyway, surprisingly lackluster. On the other hand, my lunching companion had grilled guinea hen (or was it squab) that was really beautiful. Heavily marinated, saffron-y and some high flowery flavors that I couldn't identify, and a very satisfying crisp exterior and sweet, soft interior. A whole hen! For $7! For lunch! Incredible. I'll have this next time.
But I'm pretty sad - I haven't found any ground-meat-ish middle-eastern-ish variant of great goodness in the Westwood area.