Carousel: The Joy of Mezze, With or Without Belly Dancing
The Lebanese-Armenian restaurant Carousel has been holding down its position in Little Armenia longer than almost anyone can remember, as it's a reliable place for kebab platters, the usual salads, and an exemplary version of muhammara, a rough, spicy paste of pomegranate molasses, roasted peppers and crushed walnuts that carries all the wallop of Mexican chorizo without any of the hog grease. Carousel is especially good for birthday parties and such -- you get a fairly enormous fixed spread of mezze for about $23.50 a head, you can bring your own wine (there is no alcohol license), and you can bring your own cake if you're into that sort of thing.
Carousel's sister restaurant, a fancy Glendale place with belly dancing, seafood dishes and oceans of arak, has been getting all the press for the last decade or so. But party or no, Carousel is worth visiting, for its slabs of spicy sujuk sausage; for its chopped eggplant with onion and tomato; for its slivers of marinated, grilled liver; for its thick lebneh; and for its huge plate of pickles, too: green and black olives, pickled turnip sticks dyed scarlet with beet juice, sprigs of fresh mint and soft slabs of salty feta cheese. Arayes seems the Armenian equivalent of the Sloppy Joe, a savory ground-meat/tomato mixture sandwiched in pita. Almost everybody seems to order one of the kebab platters, and why not? The ground-meat kofta is especially good.
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