For most of the decade, there may have been no more pleasant place in Los Angeles to eat Middle Eastern food than in Alcazar's shaded patio, a balmy place scented with hookah smoke, garlic and the hot sajj bread baking on its grill. The restaurant was famous for its crisply fried fish with tahini sauce, its frogs' legs with lemon and its juicy chicken kebabs, among other things, and a contented out-of-town friend, who spends much of her year in the Middle East, noted with a sigh that the Lebanese-Armenian restaurant reminded her of her favorite Lebanese seaside town.
A couple of years ago, Alcazar opened Alcazar Express in Westwood, and not long after that, the original Alcazar closed. The newer place had equally fine food but was a bit cramped, not quite as comfortable, and although I ended up going there fairly often, I missed the old one, the Zahle in the Valley. But miracles occasionally happen, and the Encino restaurant is up and running again, a little shabby at the moment but happy, and still a center for superbly crunchy boreg; an unusual salad made from the fresh za'atar herb; grilled quail; and the whole panoply of mezze, grilled meats, salads, fish and makdoos that you may have loved before. Will the famous arak service begin again? I can't wait to go back and see.
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ALCAZAR: 17239 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 789-0991, al-cazar.com