[RESTAURANT REVIEW] Kismet Keeps Los Feliz Stylish

Middle Eastern and especially Israeli tastes are absolutely the hottest food trend in Los Angeles right now, and Kismet is at the white-hot epicenter.

A collaboration between Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson, New York transplants who run the terrific Madcapra stand in Grand Central Market, and Los Angeles restaurant empire kings Jon and Vinny of Animal fame, Kismet took over the Mother Dough space on Hollywood Blvd. and opened at the beginning of 2017.

The Saras are devoted to bright flavors—swathes of tart labneh (thickened yogurt), sprinkles of spices like tangy sumac and tangles of fresh herbs—in a way that truly does elevate some familiar Middle Eastern favorites. And that’s what’s key: making better food than we’re already getting.

Because in L.A., the flavors of Armenia, Lebanon, Iran and Israel are the flavors we grew up with. Even diners whose families aren’t native to the Middle East weaned their children on Zankou roast chicken and had family dinners at Carousel and Marouch. So restaurants who want to do “modern Middle Eastern” can’t just switch out the bulgur for quinoa and parsley for kale and call it a day.

Kismet takes on the challenge and succeeds, if you’re willing to take it on its own terms. Many find it just too expensive for what you get, and some also find the 20% service charge presumptuous, though it’s an increasingly popular trend.

Brunch or lunch for two can easily run $75 without ordering anything particularly indulgent, and dinner will be quite a bit more, should you choose the rabbit for two at $80.

At dinner, only a few other dishes involve animal protein, like lamb belly and clams in broth. Start by ordering some barbari bread, which takes a few minutes to get ready, and a refreshing cocktail like the rhubarb spritz, or a glass of wine from the small but knowing menu.

Kuku is the perfect brunch dish, a frittata-like wedge sometimes seen as a sandwich filling in Persian restaurants. Dotted with white beans and flecked with Swiss chard, it’s topped with a handful of greens.

Shakshuka, the traditional dish of stewed tomatoes topped with poached eggs that’s suddenly on every brunch menu, comes with the delectable bread from Bub and Grandma’s for sopping up the deeply flavored gravy.

Flaky, lemony chicken and pine nut pies make a good starter, while the “Salad-y” choices are lovely compositions of combinations, like cucumbers and melon with labneh or lettuce with plums and lentils, that put the focus on carefully selected produce.

The Turkish-ish breakfast—yes, the names can be a little cutesy—makes it fun for a few people to snack on various combinations of olives, eggs, bread, cucumbers and other things.

Ditto the rabbit, which comes with plenty of accompaniments to (partially) justify the $80 price, but can be divided among several people. Jeweled crispy rice with egg yolk, another Persian-influenced dish, is a good side for catching any stray sauces.

For dessert, don’t miss the honey mousse with filo brittle and caramelized figs.

Kismet brings together food that feels healthy while still bursting with flavor in a stylish setting, and it can also serve as a gateway drug to exploring the area’s wealth of OG Middle Eastern spots.

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