QUESTION: For years I have purchased lahmajunes at the Armenian bakery near the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Kenmore Street, but was crushed to find they have gone out of business. Any suggestions as to where else I might find these wonderful mini pizzas? Thanks much . . .
ANSWER: Uncle Jack’s! Number-one meat pies! I had my first lahmajune at Uncle Jack’s a million years ago. And although I haunted pretty much every Armenian market in town, Uncle Jack’s lahmajunes were always the best: wafer-thin round things, about the diameter of hand-patted tortillas, smeared with a few grams of a garlicky tomato-meat stew. The edges of the pie were baked, slightly burnt and crisp, with a faint matzo-like flavor. The stew was spiked with still-crisp bits of green pepper and onion, and had a clean taste of fresh vegetables. There was a wholesome, handmade quality to them, like something that somebody’s mom could be famous for whipping up for PTA meetings. I really miss those things.
Still, I stopped by the nearby Arax Bakery the other day, and the lahmajunes, although somewhat floppier than the Uncle Jack’s paradigm, were really first-rate, a couple of ticks spicier than other lahmajunes in Hollywood, and intriguingly flavored with fresh herbs. The manaesh, a slightly thicker bread crusted with sour crushed sumac and wild Armenian thyme, was pretty great too, especially when you toast it at home and have it with your coffee in the morning. Arax Bakery, 4871 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 666-7313.