Every meal at Raffi’s Place begins with sabzi, or “something green”—sprigs of basil, chopped parsley and white onions, and whole radishes served on a plate, along with pats of butter and a basket of unleavened lavash. When pulled together, these aromatics and herbs make for a uniquely Persian appetizer.
The sabzi to start, as well as the bougainvillea-shaded dining room, have been a part of the Raffi’s experience since 1993, when Rafik Bakijan and his wife, Gohar, opened the restaurant to share treasured family recipes with Los Angeles’ burgeoning Middle Eastern community.
For an appetizer, The Astronomer and I shared an order of tadig, a prized crispy rice crust, served with ghormesabzi (stewed greens with beef, kidney beans, and dehydrated limes) and gheimeh bademjan (stewed split peas and eggplant). The rice was a textural powerhouse, while the duo of stews were soulful and hearty.
Continue reading ‘Raffi’s Place – Los Angeles (Glendale)’
A few of my favorite gal pals and I are packing our bags and flying to Portland for a weekend of serious face stuffage next month. To plan and plot our ambitious dining itinerary, we recently powwowed over a most homey and comforting Greek-Armenian dinner at Elena’s. This trip is going to be epic.
Hourie grew up in the neighborhood and has been dining at this three-decade-old restaurant for as long as she can remember. According to a 1997 Times write up about the place, “Elena Tchentchenian is the woman responsible for the cultural mixing. She was born in Greece but reared in Armenia, which accounts for the Armenian touches.”
Every meal at Elena’s begins with a basket of warm flatbread accompanied by the most addictive garlic “sauce” ever. Rumor has it that the sauce gets its body from mashed potatoes!
When I arrived at the restaurant, Lien and Hourie were already diggin’ into a sumptuous mezze spread. There were pretty pink pickles that make my mouth-water just thinking about them…
Continue reading ‘Elena’s Greek Armenian Cuisine – Los Angeles (Glendale)’
Old Sasoon Bakery has been high on my list of local places to check out ever since reading Tasting Table’s delectable report back in 2009. When The Astronomer had a speaking engagement at a high school located several buildings down from the shop, I took the opportunity to finally visit the famed Syrian bakery. I’d never realized it before, but Old Sasoon is located just a mile and half from my home—we’re practically neighbors! Shame on me for not coming in sooner.
According to my friend Josh, the bakery was opened by Haroutioun Geragosian in 1986. It is named after a village in Armenia that his grandparents left after World War II. Today, the shop is run by Haroutioun’s son Joesph and several other family members.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the store was how good the place smelled. Freshly baked goods perfumed the air both inside and outside the shop. The ambiance was laid back and efficient, just the way I like it.
All of the baked goods are displayed behind a classic bakery case. After scanning the various levels, The Astronomer and I picked out way too much food for two people. We couldn’t help ourselves because everything sounded so interesting and was priced quite reasonably.
To start, I picked out three beorags (savory hand pies) that the woman behind the counter offered to lightly toast in the oven. The one filled with basturma ($2.50) was balanced nicely by the creamy cheese and fluffy bread. I love the unique flavor of Armenian cured beef.
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It’s a well known fact that cured meats make my heart go pitter-patter, so when a fellow Pasadena-based food blogger alerted me that a basturma specialist recently opened up shop down the street from my home, I made my way there at my earliest convenience.
House of Basturma was completely empty when The Astronomer, Danny, and I arrived last Tuesday night. However, as soon as we walked in, the mom and pop who run the place unglued their eyes from the local news and assisted us in navigating the Armenian-Lebanese-Turkish menu. I kind of got the sense that the older couple was a little baffled as to why two Asian kids and a white dude were stopping in for dinner, but they were hospitable and friendly nevertheless.
We ordered a chikofte platter ($5.99) to start. Traditionally served as an appetizer, chikofte is a mixture of bulgur wheat and finely ground raw beef. We were informed by the proprietress that only Middle Eastern palates appreciate this dish, but we went ahead and ordered it anyway because I heart raw meat as much as the cured stuff.
The chikofte was topped with lightly dressed fresh tomatoes and served with warm pita bread. The first few bites of the chikofte along with the pita and veggies were very lovely, but after bite number five, it started tasting monotonous. Had the portion not been so generous, we would’ve left things off on a high note!
Continue reading ‘House of Basturma – Pasadena’