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.
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.
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.
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.
October 31, 2009 at 7:31 PM
Heading down right now based on your recommendation. Thanks!
October 23, 2009 at 1:57 PM
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!
October 23, 2009 at 2:10 PM
I did make sure to include a photo of mantee. The crisp dumplings are smothered in yogurt sauce.
Charles G Thompson
October 12, 2009 at 11:49 AM
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!