LONG BEACH FAVE OPENS ON BEVERLY BLVD
In Long Beach’s trendy Belmont Shore neighborhood, there’s a Mediterranean restaurant serving authentic Lebanese cuisine that’s so popular that there are two of them on the same block on East Second Street. Open Sesame is so beloved by locals and fans willing to make the drive for their Lebanese fix that it is common place to see both restaurants jam packed on weekends. And now, a third location is open on Beverly Boulevard near the Fairfax District.
From restaurateur Ali Kobeissi, born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, is a restaurant that offers Mediterranean cuisine that is fresh and natural, yet savory and sensational.
“My vision is to serve guests the most healthy, wholesome and delicious Lebanese food in a casual yet somewhat exotic ambience,” Kobeissi explains. Adding, “working my summer vacations in a spice factory is where I learned to mix many exotic spices, and developed a love for healthy, flavorful food as well as an understanding that healthy food did not need to include any animal fats or additives in order to be considered… delicious!”
Step inside his Los Angeles Open Sesame and you’ll be drawn into its cozy and inviting setting. The color red is prominent creating a welcoming Mediterranean vibe. Enjoy a glass of Lebanese beer or wine, or a handcrafted cocktail like the wonderful Highland Toddy made with Highland Park 12-year scotch, Basswood Honey and fresh lemon juice served hot or cold (I like it on ice).
During our recent visit for dinner, we started with an order of Hummus prepared with chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice and tahini sauce, and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and served with pita. While this tried and true dish is almost obligatory to order, it’s a favorite for a reason, and when you get it made right, like they do at Open Sesame, you remember while you love it so much.
Other healthy and tasting appetizers from the Mezza section of the menu include the savory Kibbi, a shell of extra lean ground beef and bulgar (wheat) filled with roasted pine nuts, caramelized onions, ground beef and herbs—served with shredded lettuce, wild cucumber pickles, tomato, tahini sauce and pita, and the delicious Fried Cauliflower served with onion, tomato and tahini sauce topped with sautéed pine nuts and almonds, also served with pita.
The Tabouleh, chopped fresh parsley, bulgar, green onion, fresh mint, spices, extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice, came highly recommended from a Lebanese friend. I found it tasty but since I’m not a fan of mint it wasn’t my favorite menu item. Every salad is actually prepared with mint so I may have had no luck in general picking a salad (or Slata).
I didn’t try their soups but both the Lentil (sautéed onion, garlic, celery, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil), and the Spicy Vegetable (a purée of vegetables, yellow lentils, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, herbs and spices) sound delicious. I’ll definitely try each on future visits.
Looking for heartier dishes, the Yassmina (Lebanese style pizza) made with feta cheese, tomato, dry basil and extra virgin olive oil is a winner. Think of these as personal pizza size and not really made to share with a group. They’re good as a small individual meal or good to share with another person if you’re looking to order several small dishes.
While the main entrees vary in price from $15 to $26 and include pita, salad, and hummus or baba ghannouj (fire roasted eggplant), you can choose from vegetarian to chicken, beef, lamb, or shrimp items, including the hearty Filet Mignon Kabob. The bad boy on the menu is The Sultan, a combination of marinated lamb chops, grilled tiger shrimp and filet mignon all charbroiled and served over basmati rice. Come hungry if you’re ordering this dish.
We instead ordered A La Carte and went with a fantastic side of Beef Shawarma. Delicious! And I recommend getting a side of garlic sauce and tahini sauce—just because they make everything better, especially over rice.
If you have a sweet tooth and want dessert, sure you can go with Baklawa but why not order Baklawa a la mode (nice touch!), or the traditional K’naafeh a la mode—a semolina wheat pastry with sweet cheese or ashta cream, topped with orange blossom syrup. It’s sweet but nice if you’re splurging. I suppose you can’t go wrong with the Chocolate Molten Lava Cake, or the Lebanese Ice Cream.
A local in the area, I’m personally excited to welcome a new and daring restaurant with a killer little bar along Beverly Boulevard. While nearby La Brea is shaping up nicely these days, things are really looking up with we have such eclectic and tasty choices along Beverly. “Open, sesame” indeed!
Open Sesame is located at 7458 Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles, and twice on East Second Street in Belmont Shore in Long Beach.
By: Jose Martinez.
Photography courtesy of: Open Sesame