When considering whether or not it’s worth writing about Middle Eastern restaurants, I inevitably compare them to Elena’s Greek Armenian Cuisine in Glendale, and just as inevitably, ignore my keyboard. Still, other Middle Eastern restaurants in L.A. are producing good food. Hollywood mainstay Carousel was my go-to takeout option for dozens of late nights at Sunset-Gower Studios. After over 100 of their meals, which have never disappointed, it’s clear that Carousel finally deserves mention.
Greg and Rose Tcholakian opened their Lebanese kebab house in the back corner of two-story Hye Plaza in December 1983, deriving the name from a popular restaurant in Beirut. Greg runs the front of the house and Rose presides over the kitchen. She learned to cook from her mother and through trial and error. Their son Mike opened a more elaborate branch in downtown Glendale in December 1998, complete with decorative scimitars, an expanded menu and weekend entertainment that includes sahlala dance teams and a live band.
With our meal, we received a silver platter featuring three slabs of firm white mild cheese, sliced cucumbers, mint leaves, carrots, pungent pickled turnips, a single jalapeno, cured black olives and spice-marinated green olives. None of these items come with Carousel’s takeout containers, further reinforcing the decision to dine in-house.
Hammos Soujuk ($8) was a bowl of hummus piled with succulent pan-fried Armenian sausage chunks, flanked by two pickled turnips and parsley, then dusted with red paprika and green chaimen. The silky garbanzo bean dip was blended with sesame, lemon juice and garlic.
For the Merry-Go-Round ($18), we were given a choice of three kebabs and selected pork, lamb ($1.50 supplement) and lule (ground beef) kebabs. The accompaniments consisted of buttery bulgur with garbanzo beans, spicy tomato sauce-brushed grilled pita, roasted tomatoes with jalapenos and an onion and diced parsley salad dusted with sumac. The lamb and lule kebabs were luscious, but the pork kebabs were overly fatty.
Other winners on the large Carousel menu have included Muhammara – dip incorporating spicy red pepper paste, walnut and pomegranate; Arayes – grilled pita sandwiching minced beef, tomatoes, parsley, onion and spices; Kebbeh Maklieh – spheres of ground beef and cracked wheat stuffed with minced beef, onions and pine nuts; and a variety of kebabs, all available Khash-Khash style, on a bed of cracked pita and a topping of yogurt, garlic and pine nuts.
Carousel’s portions are so generous that I’ve never attempted dessert, but they offer several intriguing cream, ice cream and pastry concoctions, almost all involving crushed nuts.