The Studio City dining scene has become hot in the past few years, but my favorite everyday food in the neighborhood isn’t at one of the many gastropubs or sushi bars that litter Ventura Boulevard; it’s at DarbinZ Kebab, a low-key restaurant with a clear food focus from Armenia native Art Darbinian.
A vivid lime green awning greets diners at DarbinZ Kebab, which features a patio that offers views of passersby. That’s right, this stretch of Ventura actually has foot traffic, and the people are primarily pretty stylish. Indoors, order from a blackboard menu at the counter and settle into a table amidst red walls and the steady but unobtrusive hum from a flat screen TV.
For the most part, DarbinZ Kebab is a grill, with juicy renditions of beef, chicken, lamb and fish, plus well-spiced, spit-shaved shawarma, all available with superior vegetarian sides.
Lentil Soup ($4.50) is a vegetarian starter sprinkled with parsley and spicy Aleppo pepper.
The Veggie Combo Plate ($9.50) is a high-value starter (or dreamy vegetarian entree) consisting of bright tabouleh, earthy hummus, smoky babaganoush, surprisingly light sarma, and golden falafel with plenty of give.
My Meat Combo Plate ($12.95) was sensational, consisting of grilled lule crafted from an 80/20 beef blend and residual beef fat from Australian shish kebab trimmings. Beef/Lamb Shawarma utilized chuck and lamb chop meat, sliced, marinated with seven-spice blend and crisped on a spit. Each overflowing plates comes with two sides, and I chose hummus and babaganoush, both excellent and both blended with olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and tahini.
If you order a single meat, consider beef lule, which comes with two sides, short-grain rice, lavash, pickled cucumber and turnip.
Cornish Game Hen ($10.95) was especially plump and far outsized other hens I’ve experienced.
Each plate of meat comes with two sauces: pungent garlic paste thickened with potato; and spicy jalapeno and bell pepper sauce seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
While it’s true that L.A. has plenty of Armenian restaurants, the namesake owner of DarbinZ Kebab represents his nation’s cuisine especially well.
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