Founder Ali Kobeissi Offers a Fresh Take on Traditional Lebanese Dishes
Open Sesame is a great name for Ali Kobeissi’s restaurant not just because sesame is an essential ingredient in the Mediterranean food he serves, but because dining there is akin to a magical experience like the Ali Baba tale full of adventure and hidden treasures.
The Los Angeles location of Open Sesame, sister to its location in Long Beach, offers guests an experience that combines the best of meticulous big city service with the familiarity and coziness of a small independent restaurant, coupled with outstanding Middle Eastern fare.
Kobeissi has created an intimate eatery for those who crave authentic Lebanese cuisine, with flavors not just of exotic spices, but also an ambience of romance and the warmth of a family kitchen. As with his first location in Long Beach, opened in 1999, the Los Angeles restaurant became popular quickly.
As a youth in Beirut, Kobeissi worked in a spice factory, and he developed a love for healthy, flavorful made without animal fats or additives. His menu is a delicious testament to his dedication to this wholesomeness.
I was lucky to get a table on a Saturday night with a friend for a feast of Kobeissi’s authentic dishes. We started with the Kibbi, a shell of ground beef filled with roasted pine nuts, caramelized onions and herbs, with a side of yogurt dip.
For entrees we had the Sultan, a combination plate of marinated lamb chops, grilled tiger shrimp, and filet mignon served over basmati rice and Kafta skewers of beef and lamb with parsley, onion and Lebanese spices and hummus. Of course we couldn’t go Mediterranean without falafel, so we ordered a couple patties a la carte.
The food was plentiful though light enough that we did not feel overfull. To finish off our very satisfying meal, we ordered two desserts: Baklawa a la mode, which was the freshest we had ever tasted, and the Ashta ice cream made a perfect complement; and the Chocolate Molten Lava Cake, which was just the right amount of rich, topped with Lebanese almond ice cream.
While we did not order any of the salud juices, the Spicy Ginger Shot of ginger and cayenne sounded like a blast; or other exotic beverages to choose from included Turkish coffee infused with cardamom, or Laban, a chilled yogurt drink with dry mint.
As we looked around the room, many patrons had finished their meals but lingered for the enjoyable ambience. Kobeissi roamed the room, graciously greeting and chatting with his customers as if they were long-time friends, welcome to stay the entire evening. But with food this good, the crowd of guests arriving for their reservations would be glad to have their tables soon.
Open Sesame is located at 7458 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. For menus and more, go to www.opensesamegrill.com