99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Hayat’s Kitchen

photo by Amy Scattergood

It is an article of faith in Los Angeles food circles that strip malls often house outstanding food — something about the repeating universe of nail shops and parked cars seems to draw great, albeit unlikely, restaurants, as if that much concrete is somehow magnetized. So drive to North Hollywood, miles into the flatlands of the San Fernando Valley, to a mall near the corner of Burbank and Vineland. There, in Hayat’s Kitchen, you will find some of the best Lebanese food in the city. A warning: You’ll order a lot of it, so make sure you have a lot of friends in your car before you head out. Because you’ll need to order the customary meze, the hummus and kibbeh and foul and soujouk, and then you’ll probably also want some of the excellent kebabs, some shawarma and lamb chops — at this point, you’d be wise also to order a Lebanese coffee or a pot of mint tea to keep you from lapsing into a happy food fugue. Because, although your server will likely try and stop you at this point, you cannot forget the potato harra — a dish that is to Middle Eastern cuisine what poutine is to Canadian food, which is to say a plate of french fries inundated with garlic sauce. You may never get out of the parking lot.

-- Amy Scattergood