Location: 500 Mateo St, Los Angeles, CA 90013. (213) 232-4966
Date: November 26, 2018
Cuisine: Modern Middle Eastern
Rating: One of the best tasting new places in town
Bavel is a new Modern Middle Eastern place from the Bestia people — and like that place it’s hip and crowded. It’s own webpage describes it as a Middle Eastern restaurant from Chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis. With family roots in Israel, Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt, Ori and Genevieve have always wanted to open a restaurant that showcases the cuisines of their family lineages, bringing together the flavors and dishes they grew up with.
Ori and Genevieve were both born in the Los Angeles area – Genevieve was raised in Southern California, while Ori and his family moved to Israel where he spent his formative years.
Ori grew up traveling with his family and was exposed to fine dining across the globe, but it wasn’t until his year-long stay in South America, where he realized his passion for cooking. Genevieve is a self-taught pastry chef who started baking out of necessity to satisfy her sweet tooth. At the time, she was studying to be a classical French horn player.
In 2001, Ori returned to Los Angeles. He landed his first kitchen job at an Israeli cafe, before working at La Terza—the restaurant where Ori and Genevieve, who was a hostess, met for the first time. From there, Ori spent time in the kitchens of Pizzeria Mozza, All’ Angelo, and under chef Gino Angelini at Angelini Osteria, where he worked for four years as chef de cuisine.
In 2012, Ori and Genevieve pursued their dream of opening their first restaurant, Bestia and in 2018 their second restaurant, Bavel. With a background in the field of interior design, Genevieve played a key role in the design of both restaurants. When not in the kitchen, Ori and Genevieve can be found spending time with their daughter, Saffron.
The interior is large, stylish, not particularly Middle Eastern (on purpose) and very very loud (unfortunately).
We ate out on the patio — which wasn’t nearly as attractive and had worse chairs but was much much quieter (which is actually more important). I wish restauranteurs would get off their louder is better horse. It’s really annoying.
The menu — we ordered most of it.
Kirk brought some fake Chard. 2015 Alheit Vineyards Chenin Blanc Magnetic North Mountain Makstok Skurfberg. VM 91. Restrained aromas of citrus fruits and flowers, plus a whiff of crushed stone. Offers noteworthy texture and sweetness in a still-reserved package. There’s minerality here and a positive dryness to the wine’s stone fruit and citrus flavors. The firm, spicy finish is not at all harsh. Quite strong on the back end. I suspect this will blossom in bottle.
FARM CHEESE. rose petal za’atar, olive oil, maldon, buckwheat loaf. This was standing in for Lebneh — or is a lebneh variant. The bread was amazing. Tons of flavor and nicely grilled. Loved the yogurt-like cheese and olive oil too — I always do.
Close up of the cheese.
FOIE GRAS HALVA. creamy paté, date puree, black sesame, buckwheat loaf. Same bread. Kind of sweet. One of those foie and sweet preps. I liked it a lot though.
DUCK ‘NDUJA HUMMUS. creamy garbanzo beans, jerusalem mix spice, herbs, pita. This might be the bavel signature dish. The “original” in Lebanon would be beef, pine nuts, and onions on top of the hummus. This variant was superb and the pita was also top notch.
A close up of the hummus, of course.
Two vintages of the same fake pinot. One was okay, the other kind of middling.
I wish these American winemakers wouldn’t stick the vineyard and vintage info in such small type on the side, but they do. Better than the ones that put it on the back (hate that) but still couldn’t read it. I think one was 09, the other very recent. Can’t remember. I don’t buy fake pinot.
GRILLED PRAWNS. harissa marinade, cured zucchini tzatziki, herbs, lime. These were superb. Really really great. The prawns were juicy, full of briney flavor, and a certain sweet char. It paired perfectly with the tangy tzatziki.
GREEN LIP MUSSELS. makrut lime, coconut milk, ginger sofrito, white wine, citrus, serrano chile. This didn’t feel Middle Eastern at all (more Thai) but it did taste amazing. Really fabulous mussel prep. Coconut curry-like.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER. hawaij chile sauce, lime leaf, crème fraiche serrano dip, pistachios, dried flowers. I’m not a vegetable person but this was one of the best dishes of the night! A more fried variant is a Lebanese staple but this was just incredible cauliflower packed with flavor.
And the creamy dip really knocked it up.
Kirk also brought this overpriced fake pinot. 2005 Sine Qua Non Pinot Noir Over & Out. VM 92. Ruby-red. Exotically perfumed nose features energetic raspberry and blackberry scents complicated by cinnamon, mace and fresh rose. Plush and sweet, offering powerful red and dark berry flavors, suave tannins and impressively chewy finishing grip. Less a pinot than a Sine Qua Non wine, and that’s not a bad thing.
agavin: I didn’t like it at all. Doesn’t taste like pinot at all, more like Syrah.
LAMB TARTARE. burnt onion crème fraiche, pickled chive blossom, mint, cinnamon, toasted sesame, laffa. Good stuff, very tangy.
The laffa? Not to be confused with luffa?
FRIED QUAIL. cardamom date sauce, pickled celery, smoked yogurt, fresh herbs. Awesome. The sauce was quiet sweet. Like fried chicken with some interesting Middle Eastern dessert reduction.
David brought: 1989 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 93+ points. I have always been a fan of the 1989 Château Beaucastel, which I rank just behind the superb 1981 at this fine estate. The most recent bottle I tasted of this wine was still just a touch youthful, but offered up fine complexity on both the nose and palate and shows excellent promise. The bouquet is a blend of roasted fruitcake, cherries, new leather, venison, incipient notes of sous bois, woodsmoke and hot stones. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and rock solid at the core, with a bit of tannin still to resolve, fine focus and grip and a very long, classy and slightly chewy finish. I would be tempted to give this wine a few more years to really resolve, as it will be a superb wine and it would be most enjoyable to drink it at the same plateau that the 1981 has been enjoying for a good decade already.
LAMB FLATBREAD. Spicy fermented sausage, grated tomato, red onion, parsley, pine nuts, nigella seed, mint, sumac.
Marinated Tomato. Whipped feta, smoked eggplant powder, savory, sea salt, olive oil. People didn’t love this dish. The feta was very salty and I think people expected a sweet/creamy vibe like with burrata. I’m not a tomato fan, so it was hard for me to tell.
From my cellar: 2006 Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri Sassicaia Sassicaia. VM 95. Bright red-ruby. Complex nose melds red cherry, blackcurrant, minerals, dried herbs and a delicate oaky vanillin nuance; the fruit aromas show an almost roasted quality without going over the top. Sweet, concentrated and nicely fresh, with an impression of strong extract and a hint of exotic fruits to the flavors of ripe red and dark berries, chocolate, plum and wild herbs. The candied fruit quality carries through on the long, smooth finish, where there’s a trace of heat and hints of menthol and minerals. A very successful Sassicaia but, in my notebook, just a little below the lofty heights of the 2001 or 2004. But given the quality of this wine, that’s quibbling.
AGED HALF DUCK. breast kebab, confit leg, duck bone broth, green amba, chicory salad. If this was half a duck, it was a VERY small duck! It did taste good, a bit like peking duck.
duck bone broth.
2002 Tua Rita Redigaffi Toscana IGT. 93 points. Such a great wine. Italian merlot. Loads of blueberries, black cherries and such a rich and voluptuous wine. Awesome texture. Supple and generous. But balanced and so well made. Plenty of life left in this bottle. Really enjoyable.
SLOW ROASTED LAMB NECK SHAWARMA. tahini, amba, pickled vegetables, laffa. Yum!
tahini, amba, pickled vegetables.
The tagine before opening.
BRAISED PORK TAGINE. prunes, serrano chile, cous cous, cashews.
cous cous, cashews and the usual tagine “sauce.”
The dessert menu — oops I mean dessert menu.
Yarom had this ice wine in his bag.
LICORICE ROOT ICE CREAM BON BON. sour licorice caramel, muscovado cake, caramelized white chocolate, maldon.
Bavel is a really great new addition to the LA scene. The only similar spot food-wise I’ve been to in LA is Mizlala — which is also fabulous (if more casual). While LA has lots of Israeli, Lebanese, and Moroccan places, Bavel (and Mizlala) really notch the cuisine up with their bright flavors, fun fusions, and attractive plating. Service was fine. The place is too loud. The food is amazing. Unlike Bestia, Bavel is fairly liberal in allowing you to open wine bottles — but they do charge a medium-high corkage. It’s tres LA and would be great for out of town guests if it weren’t so far and hard to get into.