Mantee: Subbing Lebanese Oasis for Studio City Guitar Shop

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Restaurant Los Angeles

Mantee draws on Lebanese and Armenian cooking traditions in Studio City.

Earlier this year, 10962 Ventura Boulevard housed a tired guitar shop, an even less dynamic office space and a weed-filled back patio, but Hrag Darakjian somehow saw the potential. Darakjian, who goes by Jonathan, is a Beirut native whose family escaped the war-torn country in 1985. For the past several years, he’s been cooking at Mexican restaurants, and in July, by opening Mantee, he re-dedicated himself to the cuisine of his homeland.

We sat in the rustic split-level dining room, but the real action takes place on the low-lit, plant-lined back patio, which is a veritable Valley oasis, especially considering its provenance.

Darakjian’s family owns a famous Beirut restaurant called Al Mayass. The Mantee menu lists several varieties of kebabs, hummus and salads, but what distinguishes Mantee from other Lebanese restaurants is their house specialties and of course mantee.

Lebanese Food Los Angeles

Mantee ($8.50) are crispy oven-baked “boat shape” ravioli filled with Angus beef. They also sell a vegetarian version filled with spinach. Either way, savory mantee submerge in a tangy garlic yogurt sauce, dusted with sumac and ground red pepper.

Mantee features several dishes involving filet mignon, including Mantee’s Delight with sautéed filet in a “special brown sauce” and the King’s Delight sautéed with fresh garlic, tomato and parsley.

Lebanese Food Los Angeles

Queen’s Delight ($8.95) features tiny nubs of filet sautéed with cherry sauce and crispy pita bits. The thin sauce wasn’t too sweet and added a nice tang that cut richness from the lean beef.

Lebanese Food Los Angeles

Mohammara ($6.45) is a dip made from crushed walnut, red pepper paste and pomegranate molasses. Carousel‘s version is chunkier, oilier and spicier. Mantee’s version was more refined, less aggressively flavored, sprinkled with pine nuts and whole walnuts.

The perpetual letdown at Middle Eastern restaurants is that the pita always comes straight from the bag, and Mantee seemed to be no exception. Only a couple restaurants invest the time and money to bake fresh pita, including Itzik Hagadol Grill.

Lebanese Food Los Angeles

Kebbe Naye ($6.95) involved rosy mound of beef shoulder tartar blended with crushed wheat. In the middle, we found a pile of diced onions and sumac that added some much needed textural contrast. With raw beef, there’s nothing to hide, so the beef better be high quality. In Mantee’s case, it was sound.

After the meal, Chef Darakjian came to our table to discuss his restaurant and suggested that next time, we order “hot feta” topped with tomato and jalapeño Fattoush, a tangy salad involving purslane, tomato, mint, sumac, radish, lemon dressing and fried pita bread. Our first Mantee experience was good enough that I’d trust just about anything on the menu.

Mantee: Subbing Lebanese Oasis for Studio City Guitar Shop


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Heading down right now based on your recommendation. Thanks!

YUM! I wish there was a pic of the mantee dish for me to lust after…Al Mayass in Beirut is a great restaurant, this one is sure to be great, too!

I did make sure to include a photo of mantee. The crisp dumplings are smothered in yogurt sauce.

I love Middle Eastern food. Always welcome a new place to try. The Mantee dish sounds so interesting. I’ll be trying this one soon. Thank you!

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