Article by Westways, Southern California's Lifestyle Magazine
Going to Alcazar with fewer than three dining companions can be frustrating. Sure, even if it's just two of you, you'll eat well at this popular six-year-old Lebanese restaurant in Encino. But Alcazar's huge menu, with more than four dozen mezzas (appetizer-size small plates) and a lengthy list of salads, soups, and main courses, offers so many delights that it's far more satisfying to go with a group of eager eaters.
For starters, you can't pass up the silken hummus or unctuous baba ghanoush; they're perfect for smearing on pita bread while perusing the menu. Since you'll probably want other cold appetizers, consider the vegetarian plate, which for $10.95 offers both of the above plus stuffed grape leaves, crisp-fried falafel, and zesty tabbouleh.
But here's where things can get out of hands, because no restaurant I know makes muhammara - the Middle Eastern pesto of walnuts, roasted red pepper, pomegranate paste, and spices- as intensely flavored as Alcazar's. And then you'll want the idea counterpoint, a dish of labneh bi toum, which tastes like mild yogurt whipped with clotted cream, garlic, and mint.
The Choices are no easier when it comes to the main courses. you'll want the quartet of marinated broiled lamb chops, which arrive nestled under wedges of antakali bread, wafer-thin with a filling of onion, pepper paste, herbs, and spices. There are other temptations, too, particularly the combination kabobs: skewers of beef filet, lula (spiced ground beef), and shish tawook (chicken breast) served with a ramekin of aromatic garlic sauce. As a side dish, don't miss the firik (toasted bulgur), a chewy, savory wheat grain that is perfect complement to this food.
And then there are a dozen desserts- exotic sweets flavored with rosewater, honey, nuts, and cinnamon- but I must confess I've never been with a group large enough or hungry enough to stay the course.
-Jean T. Barrett
Westways January/February 2007
Alcazar: 99 Essential Restaurants 2011
When it's pretty late at night, and you are half-woozy on arak and secondhand hookah smoke, and the fried mullet in front of you has long since been transformed into skeletons yet you can't resist swabbing bits of fried pita around the plate, hoping to pick up a stray puddle of tahini sauce — at these times, it is possible to persuade yourself that Alcazar may be the best restaurant in this part of Encino. The band stops playing. You can hear tiny crickets singing all along the patio. Life is good.
Los Angeles has a pretty good community of Middle Eastern restaurants, but there is no place quite like Alcazar, with its salad made with the wild thyme called za'taar; a half-dozen kinds of hummus; pungent shanklish cheese chopped into a salad; and a definitive version of sautéed chicken livers with fresh pomegranate seeds. Alcazar is one of the finest Middle Eastern kitchens in Los Angeles. The cooks are Egyptian and Lebanese, but the owner, a well-known Armenian crooner who sometimes sings here on weekends, is not above insisting on putting Armenian-style kibbe nayeh on his menus, to go along with the chicken kebabs, stuffed grape leaves and superbly crunchy boreg.
- Jonathan Gold
LAWeekly restaurants, Thursday, Nov 10 2011
Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants
Alcazar is a slice of coastal Lebanon transplanted to the heart of Encino, a sun-dappled terrace perfumed with cumin, grilled mullet and the bright coals of apple-scented tobacco burning in brass hookahs. The cooks may be Arab, but the owner, a well-known Armenian crooner who sometimes sings here on weekends, is not above insisting that the chile-red Armenian version of hummus and the fluffy raw-beef dish kibbe nayeh share space on the menu with more traditionally Lebanese things like fried sea bass with fried pita and tahini; stuffed grape leaves and a wonderful dish of sautéed chicken livers with pomegranate. The shish towook, grilled kebabs of extravagantly marinated chicken breast, is as good as a kebab ever gets. On weekends, ultrathin sajj bread, like lavash, is baked on the patio over a vast heated surface, wrapped around grilled meat or made into the thin, crisp, thyme-scented Arab quesadillas called kl’leg.