Dear Mr. Gold:

What’s the best Armenian restaurant in town? An Armenian co-worker says Carousel — is that really the gold standard?

—Sharan, Malibu

Dear Sharan:

I am writing this still full from a meal at Phoenicia, the Lebanese-Armenian place where the owners of Mandaloun regrouped after that enormous restaurant closed last year, and the spicy funk of the cheese salad shanklish, the lemony smack of the fried lambs’ tongues and the meaty smack of the hommos with beef are still fresh in my mind. Is Carousel, the grand Lebanese-Armenian restaurant on Brand, a better bet? Probably, especially its seafood dishes and its muhammara, the red pepper–pomegranate dip that it popularized in its original Hollywood restaurant. Is Marouch, the original Hollywood Lebanese-Armenian restaurant, better still? It may be — the kitchen seems to get better with every passing year, and nobody is better at the homey Armenian stews that never seem to make it to restaurants.

Does Elena’s, the inexpensive Greek-Armenian restaurant in Glendale, deserve mention? Of course — the lentil soup is delicious, and the simple chicken kebabs are fine. But it is Alcazar that I am drawn to the most, an inside/outside Lebanese-Armenian restaurant in an Encino shopping center, with epochal raw kibbe, tasty arayes, the best shish tawok in town and fried fish with tahini that has rendered friends teary with nostalgia for seaside restaurants outside of Beirut. Add a hookah loaded with apple-flavored tobacco and a milky-white glass of the arak the restaurant brings in itself, and you have an Armenian evening to remember — even on the nights when the owner, Armenian singer Vatch, isn’t rocking the house with his band. 17239 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 789-0991.

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