Saturday, May 09, 2015

Carousel Restaurant: When the Original is Still the Best

The interior is brighter and more open than before.

In this month's Los Feliz Ledger, EatingLA paid a return visit to Carousel, which has recently redecorated.

Why to go: After more than 30 years, a recent facelift and a beer and wine license is the perfect reason to revisit Carousel in East Hollywood, which still turns out some of the city's best Middle Eastern cooking.
The look: Carousel retained its 1980s mini-mall ambiance for decades, while the more lavishly decorated
location on Brand Boulevard in Glendale seemed to get all the attention from the Tcholakian family. Now Carousel's original restaurant on Hollywood Blvd near Normandie is more inviting, with an opened-up layout, black and white photos and carved wood accents replacing the hotel-room art and frosted glass dividers. Bright canvas awnings shield the sidewalk tables from the parking lot, and some even bring their doggies to dine al fresco.
Carousel is now serving beer and wine

The food: After trying "modern" Mediterranean dishes elsewhere like kale tabbouli, you might find
yourself dreaming of Carousel's perfectly-balanced fattouch salad or its bracingly tart, herb-flecked cabbage salad that's the perfect foil to the richness of charred lamb kebabs or creamy hummus. The homestyle Lebanese dishes at Carousel define the flavors that others experiment with, but sometimes the original is still the best.
Vegetarian sampler is the perfect way to try everything

Entree kebabs and samplers are a good value for plenty of food, but make sure to explore the more unusual corners of the appetizer menu. Tabbouli comes in regular and a "red" variety with sauteed tomatoes and onions, while hummus gains another dimension with toppings of ground beef or Armenian soujouk sausage. Carousel was where I first tried muhammara, the fruity, lightly- spiced dip made of red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate, and it's hard to find a better version. I had already tried fattoush salad before I ever went to Carousel, growing fond of the combination of crunchy pita slices, cucumbers, tomatoes and purslane. But as soon as I tasted Carousel's bright citrus-sumac vinaigrette, I could tell a new standard had been set for the signature salad.
Beef Kofta

Kebbeh, or steak tartare, is one of the most popular traditional dishes, but if you prefer beef to be cooked, try Beef Kofta, fried torpedos of ground beef and pine nuts that start the meal off just right. You'll want to assemble various deliciously garlicky concoctions using pita bread and meats as a base, so make sure appetizers include several spreads like smooth eggplant mutabbal or moussaka and creamy lebneh (yogurt cheese).
Save room for baklava and Armenian coffee after dinner, and or try something different like the fragrant rosewater and Lebanese cheese desserts.
To drink: Lebanese and Armenian beer and wine work well with herb and onion-laden dishes, or try
housemade lemonade, bright green tarragon soda pop or traditional yogurt tun drink.
Must-tries: Muhammara dip, fattoush salad, eggplant moussaka, chicken lula kebab, lamb kebab
Good to know: Middle Eastern restaurants easily kids, vegetarians and gluten-free diners. Carousel's catering also feeds many of the Eastside's parties and celebrations. The menu at the Glendale location may be slightly larger, but Hollywood location is convenient with its parking lot, and it's easier to carry on a conversation without the live entertainment featured in Glendale some nights.
Carousel, 5112 Hollywood Blvd., 323-660-8060

No comments: