Dining Outside At The Fabulous Bavel
When husband-and-wife chef-owners Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis chose Bavel for the name of their celebrated Los Angeles restaurant, they did so because they cherished they way the likely mis-transcribed word, taken from the original Old Testament’s story of Babel, alluded to a time when everything was one.
These days, that may be but a wistful notion. But Bavel gives you a semblance of that hopefulness, as you step through its doors to the cacophony of diners of all walks and ages, clinking glasses, digging into big plates of grilled meats, and using their hands to enjoy puffy pita together with abandon.
And loud it is, as I found when I dined a couple weeks ago. The chic dining room with its ceiling of cascading leafy vines is especially raucous, and the comfortable front patio, where I dined, is only a few decibels less. It’s like being invited to a rollicking party at its height.
It definitely adds to the anticipation for the superb modern Middle Eastern specialties to come.
Start things off with a Brouwerji West draft Blackberry Ale ($6 half; $10 full) that’s a vivid cranberry color with deep berry taste and a hoppy backbone; and a Shamir ($18), Bavel’s take on a white Negroni that’s bold with grapefruit oil and pink peppercorn botanical spirit.
I am still dreaming of the hummus duck ‘nduja ($16). It’s as smooth and creamy as it gets, with a less pasty, much lighter, whipped texture. It is streaked with turmeric, adding a warm earthiness; and covered in crimson duck ‘nduja crumbles imbued with smokiness and spiciness. Two fluffy warm pita rounds come alongside. You’ll find yourself tearing off pieces to drag through the hummus until you wipe the plate clean.
For something crisp and fresh, the buttermilk gem lettuce salad ($19) is great for sharing. It’s a mound of greens tumbled with cherry tomatoes, daikon, shallots, tarragon, vivid orange trout roe for pops of salinity, and black and white sesame seeds for a flourish of nuttiness.
The slow-roasted lamb neck shawarma ($52) is one of the most popular large-format entrees. No wonder, since this fall-off-the-bone lamb gets so sticky soft. It comes sprawled atop laffa, a large thin flatbread that soaks up everything. Accompanying it all is tahini, a spicy spinach-chili sauce, and pickles of cabbage, fennel and turnips. You can cut off a piece of flatbread and wrap a little bit of everything in it to eat; or enjoy everything on its own, too. Either way, this is a dish worth savoring.
For dessert, the strawberry sumac and sweet cheese pastry ($16) lets you indulge in a buttery, flaky treat at dinner time that would be just as wonderful for breakfast.
Like a leaf-shaped hand-pie, it’s filled with sweet, bright-tasting strawberries, then dusted with floral-tangy sumac powder that brings out the flavor of the berries even more. You feel the texture of the ground nuts in the deeply nutty tasting pistachio ice cream next to it. A swipe of thick sheep’s milk ricotta adorns the edge of the plate. You’ll smile at just how reminiscent it is of a strawberry Pop-Tart, but taken to a far more sophisticated level.
At Bavel, you will leave at peace and ever so content.