The western fringe of L.A.’s San Fernando Valley is a wonderland for Middle Eastern cuisine. You’ll find dozens of Armenian, Israeli, Persian and Lebanese dining options, and when kebabs and falafel just aren’t enough, head to Alcazar, a nine-year-old restaurant that sells a long list of Middle Eastern classics. What distinguishes Alcazar from L.A.’s other Middle Eastern restaurants are their more challenging cuts of meat like livers, tongues and “fries.” The “international singer” Vatche croons in eight languages, so you know the man has range, and that also applies to his restaurant’s food.
In the main dining room, colorful murals flank a stage that frequently hosts live entertainment. On weekends, Alcazar has been known to draw big crowds for musicians and belly dancers. Out back, a patio faces the shopping center’s courtyard.
Every meal at Alcazar begins with ultra-tart pickled vegetables, intensely flavored olives and standard-issue, store-bought pita. On the weekends, they upgrade to fresh-baked sajj, a flatbread topped with zaatar, cheese and basturma.
Mattatouille and I shared three different dishes. Each organ meat is available in two different preparations.
It’s hard to tell from their appearance, but “fries” are actually testicles. The surprisingly delicate slices weren’t gamy in the least and had silky, supple texture. Thankfully there was no visible evidence of the meat’s origin.
With all or our organ meat dishes, there was nothing to cut the richness. Even a plate of rice would have helped to temper the weight of our undertaking.
In the future, I might build up the nerve to eat Alcazar’s K’Khaat, beef brain dressed with garlic, lemon and oil. I’m also interested in trying their sajj. Sajj may not be so challenging, but it’s fun to say and sounds even better to eat.