There's been a bit of talk lately regarding Lebanese food, so I thought I'd share some info w/ you Hounds about one of my favorites (It's long, sorry!):
You wouldn't normally patronize Skaf's unless you heard about it from someone else. This place is tucked away in some typically seedy North Hollywood mini mall, next to a "we-insure-anyone" makeshift insurance agency and a 7-eleven. There is almost always some form of vagrancy outside, and it's not just your typical homeless guy asking politely for change, it'll be some drugged out craaaazy mumbling guy. Whatever the case, the world outside Skaf's ranks high on the sleaze-factor scale.
But once inside the small, modest, but clean family-owned eatery, you're greeted with warmth by the "Skafs." Mr. Skaf (I think that's his name, I've never been introduced to him formally but we'll just call him that for now) and his sons will seat you immediately and if there isn't a normal table available, they'll try to pull a Rubbermaid folding table out of the back room and out to the floor to accomodate you.
Every dish at Skaf's is preceeded by hummus & pita and their famous cabbage salad. The hummus is brought out in small, individual dishes for each diner and has a little indentation in it that shows off a tiny glistening pool of oil and sprinklings of paprika and parsley. Its taste, delicious with a perfect balance of tartness from the lemon juice and nuttiness from the tahini. Its texture, velvety smooth. Their cabbage salad, in my opinion, is heavenly. Crunchy chopped green and red cabbage and diced tomatoes are tossed in a lemony, garlicky, peppery dressing. It's addictive, trust me.
Skaf's tabouleh is also excellent; this refreshing salad, sharp and zesty from the chopped parsley, tomatoes and onion, mellowed out into textural submission by the grains of bulgar wheat, and tossed with mint, lemon juice and olive oil is great eaten alone or as an accompaniment to any of their grilled meats.
My "usual" at Skaf's is one of their grilled meat plates. The shish kebab plate comes with two skewers of tender beef steak and bell peppers. The shish tawook is the same concept, only with chicken breast, and this ain't no dry boring chicken breast. Skaf's marinates theirs well, so what you get is some tasty, juicy meat with a nicely grilled exterior. An added bonus to the shish tawook plate is the garlic sauce, a potent white paste that to me, rivals Zankou's. Kefta kebabs are tasty long strips of seasoned ground beef and are somehow exempt of the wooden skewers when they make it out on your plate. Undecisive? Order the combo grill which gives you one of each of the shish kebab, shish tawook and kefta kebab. All of Skaf's plates come with baby pepperoncinis, a couple slices of bright magenta pickled turnips and a side of fluffy white rice topped with a few sliced onions and a dusting of sumac, a purple spice with a lemony flavor. They've also got falafel, shawerma and shrimp kebab plates that I have yet to try. Skaf's always offers a couple of daily specials, a few of which my friends and I have been fortunate enough to taste. The beef and green bean stew I tried the other day, for example, was perfect for a June gloom day with fork tender beef and green beans in a hearty, tomato based sauce.
You know, the world is full of a-holes. So its really refreshing when you run in to genuinely nice people like those who run Skaf's. I am not jiving you when I say that these guys have given me the best customer service I have ever experienced at any restaurant. Ask about one of the specials, how it's prepared, etc. and Mr Skaf will most likely go behind the counter to scoop up a small dish of the stuff for you to sample. If for some reason, two of you decide to split a plate, they'll give each of you an order of hummus and cabbage salad even though the plate's technically supposed to come with just one. My friend didn't specify which kind of beef kebab she wanted one day and when they brought out the kefta kebab instead of the shish kebab, they said they'd make her a shish kebab right away and asked if we'd just like to eat the kefta kebab. These guys are awesome. You can tell they appreciate their customers and truly love what they do. Which keeps people like me and all their other obviously repeat customers coming back.
Skaf's Lebanese Grill
6008 Laurel Canyon Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91606