There was no way we could not name Bavel our Restaurant of the Year.
Rarely does a sophomore restaurant eclipse its predecessor in the way that Bavel has captured the stomachs and Instagram feeds of Los Angeles diners. Try to find a serious (or not so serious) gourmand who hasn’t posted a photo of the gargantuan lamb neck shawarma, the fiery prawns, the hummus or the layered malawach bread.
When you think about the meals you obsess over and the dishes you wake up wishing you’d eaten more of, Bavel comes to mind. This is the Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant by Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis, the two chefs who opened Bestia in the Arts District in 2012.
It’s a restaurant that wonderfully encapsulates the all-things-Middle-Eastern movement sweeping Los Angeles. It was the restaurant name on everyone’s lips this past year, often uttered as a question due to the variances in pronunciation. (It’s buh-VELL.)
The Restaurant of the Year was picked by Jonathan Gold in the past. Bill Addison and Patricia Escarcega will name next year’s winner. But last year, Andrea Chang, Amy Scattergood and I picked up the torch to put together the paper’s 101 Restaurants We Love list. And in doing so, it fell on us to consider Restaurant of the Year, and we unanimously chose Bavel.
The hummus is reason enough to give Bavel all the awards. In Gold’s review of the restaurant, which was his last for this paper, he beautifully described the complexities of the humble dish:
“Menashe’s hummus is magnificent, a ring of silky, airy purée surrounding a big spoonful of chunkier, denser stuff; a green rivulet of olive oil; smears of spicy, smoky harissa and green puréed herbs.”
Gergis’ desserts are passionate, delicious and can sometimes defy logic and even gravity. It took her several tries to get that crème brûlée to set just perfectly over the date purée beneath it. And she will make a licorice lover out of us all; not eventually, but at the exact moment you dip into her licorice root ice cream bon bons.
The dining room, with its exposed brick, cascading greenery, high ceiling and exceptionally well-dressed clientele, is on trend but still inviting. A busy Saturday night here is the irrefutable nucleus of the Los Angeles dining universe.
But not only is this restaurant of the now, it is also something Menashe and Gergis have been wanting to open for years. It is technically precise, craveable cooking that draws from both Menashe’s and Gergis’ backgrounds in Morocco, Israel, Egypt and Turkey.
Drop the mic. Pass the hummus.
Food Bowl alert: Join us for an opening night celebration of Night Market on May 8, featuring collaborations from L.A.’s top restaurants and international guests. Bavel will host a collaboration with Taco Maria, winner of last year’s Restaurant of the Year. Entry to Night Market is free. Tickets to the Collaboration Lab are $75 and will also feature: Kismet X Ciya, Shibumi x Spago, Scratch Bar and Kitchen x Ari Taymor, Fiona x Cicatriz, Chengdu Taste X Jitlada, Openaire x Arlo Grey, The Bazaar x Otono, Otium x Chef Edras Ochoa. All food and drink is included in the price of admission. Purchase tickets at lafoodbowl.com.