A few years ago I wrote a review of Skaf's Lebanese Cuisine on Chevy Chase Drive in Glendale. At the time, I spoke effusively of the succulent chicken shwarma and gushed over the addictive cabbage salad. When the Skaf family, specifically sons Daniel and Christopher, decided to extend their reach, opening a new restaurant in the heart of Brand Boulevard, I fretted that the quality might decline. Not so. Skaf's is still on my list of top-10 favorite Glendale eateries.
The decor is my only concern at Skaf's on Brand. It's a bit too "hotel lobby" for me, with an unappetizing blue wall color. But once the food arrives, all eyes are on the table, where a multitude of plates and bowls hold mezze of various kinds. Some items are complimentary with your entree, such as hommus, cabbage salad and pita. Others, like the grape leaves, falafels and spicy potatoes, are worth the extra $6 or $7.
This is a great way for families and good friends to eat and socialize, hopping from the fluffy hommus to the garlicky cabbage, using fresh torn pita for spoons. We fight over the last cube of spicy potato, cayenne and garlic still lingering on our lips. The grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes and onions are spiced just right. The chick pea falafel balls are large, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, with a pleasing stone-ground texture.
My beloved shwarma was as delicious as ever atop the refreshing fattoush Salad ($11). Kebab-crazy Glendalians will find Skafs' kebabs to be perfectly respectable with juicy rib-eye steak, white chicken breast and flavorful ground beef kafta. Still, all this paled in comparison to the kebbeh labanieh.
It is such a pleasure to come across a brand new flavor. I suppose every Lebanese person knows what kebbeh labanieh is, but I did not. The description scared me a little: kebbeh balls in yogurt soup. I eat my Yoplait chilled and sweetened with berries. Who eats hot yogurt? When I took my first sip, my eyes opened wide. It was light, tangy, minty, brothy, creamy and deeply satisfying. Plunging my fork into one of the three torpedo-shaped kebbeh balls floating therein, I was surprised again by the flavors of cinnamon and allspice mixed with beef, onion and cracked wheat. I could taste the time and care that went into this bowl. Kebbeh can be time-consuming to make and dairy is easy to curdle when heated. This was smooth and delicious.
I'm feeling brave enough to go back to the Chevy Chase location and try their mloukhiyeh, a dish made with a mucilaginous vegetable akin to okra. I'm sure in the hands of the talented Skaf family, it will be wonderful.
What: Skaf's Lebanese Cuisine
Where: 233-1/2 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.
Cost: Starters $4-$10; Entrees $10-$25
Contact: (818) 246-5552; www.skafsrestaurants.com
LISA DUPUY has reviewed more than 100 area restaurants. She welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.