Syria has largely been associated with turmoil to start the ’10s, but of course the Middle Eastern country has more to contribute to the global landscape, including cuisine. Jack is ethnically Armenian, but hails from Aleppo, Syria, and opened Esso Mediterranean Bistro with his family in the back corner of an Encino strip mall in 2011. The restaurant’s named for what people called his wife when she was a little girl, but the flavors are rather adult. My favorite dish was Ras Nahnah ($9.95), which kind of resembled a Syrian hamburger, minus the bun. He fries a ground beef patty, marinates the meat in garlic and mint and drops it on the grill, forming caramelized edges. The patty then bathes in tangy lemon juice, garlic, dried mint, and of course Aleppo pepper, a spicy dusting that comes from the family’s namesake city.