Glori Fickling, For the Coastline Pilot
When dedicated chef Marwan launched his delightful little Mama’s
Bakery and Lebanese Cuisine in Laguna Beach two years ago on Mother’s Day
he introduced to locals a new dimension in ethnic taste sensations.
The quaint little respite with myriad tables outside for alfresco
dining is a continuing tribute to his late mother who so loved our
community that she often brought lavish picnics to Heisler Park to share
with neighboring sun worshipers.
Her love, says the gracious Marwan, inspired this clone to the
14-year-old original located in San Diego where Mama’s recipes first
attracted a dedicated following.
The deliciously healthful flavors of Marwan’s Beirut homeland are
served with caring concern from an immaculate kitchen behind the cafe
nestled among the art galleries and shops of The Collection on Coast
These are ancient comfort foods prepared from scratch, the many
complex ingredients carefully blended, chopped and authentically
combined. Stone-baked pita breads and similarly flat-wheat breads embrace
such sandwich fillings as crunchy falafel patties, toasted garlic
chicken, beef kafta and sajou, a spicy beef sausage. These are
embellished with various condiments, spices, yogurt, pickles, olives,
cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce.
The pliant and fragrant breads are presented triangularly in baskets
with the many entrees and appetizers that make for adventuresome
picnic-style feasting. For a magical taste sensation, spoon into these
delicate pockets the creamy, comforting baba ghanoush, a roasted eggplant
dish, deliciously spicy labneh, a dab of chopped tabouli salad adding
texture contrast. The wheat version is also the basis for a delicate
herbal pizza seasoned with lemony sumac, olive oil and sesame seeds.
There is an interesting display of Lebanese artifacts in one corner of
the restaurant and a glass case at the entry encompasses a luscious
assortment of imported pastries to enjoy with any of an endless variety
of herbal teas and exotic coffees. A rare treat is the thick, syrupy
Turkish coffee poured ceremoniously from a small brass vessel into tiny,
delicate, gilt-trimmed cups. After consuming the sweet liquor, remnants
from the cups when turned upside down may reveal an individual’s future
when read by professional psychics, much as gypsy’s read tea leaves.
“Your future is in your stomach” is an oft quoted comment of these
readers, according to chef Marwan whose expertise began at childhood in
his mother’s kitchen. His training continued at prestigious Switzerland
restaurants and was finally consummated at a famous Italian cooking
school paid for by the appreciative management of one of those hotels.
Price wise, a quintet of combination plates sided with salad, humus,
condiments and pita are $11.99. Appetizers, sandwiches, meat and
vegetable pies range from $2.99 for the crunchy pizza Manakeesh, to $8.99
for meat/spinach/cheese pie. Beverages and desserts are $1.25 to $4.50.
MAMA’S BAKERY AND LEBANESE CUISINE
WHERE: 540 South Coast Highway Suite 108
HOURS: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. open every day except Tuesday