>> Aloosh Mediterranean Restaurant | Eat the World Los Angeles

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Aloosh Mediterranean Restaurant

SAUDI ARABIA 🇸🇦
Hazard Avenue facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The small dining room is fully open. Interactions can be limited if desired as orders and payment take place at the counter.

📍 7032 Hazard Avenue, Westminster, Orange County

In Southern California, people seeking out the cuisines of the entire world are used to seeing "Mediterranean food" in the names and descriptions of restaurants from Northern Africa, the Levant, the Balkans, and even sometimes for Armenian and Persian. Unfortunately its use is out of necessity, to improve the odds of survival for a restaurant that otherwise might not attract a wide enough range of customers. Even the Mexican restaurant that lived here before Aloosh moved in called itself "Mediterranean Mexican Grill" somehow.

That body of water survived the most recent transition of the space, which is housed in a commercial building and shares the parking lot with a pest control company, insurance agency, and driving school, among others. This time the cuisine is that of the Arabian Peninsula, with the restaurant's specialties descried as Saudi on the menu. So... Mediterranean!

A full dinner order shown from above

The salads, hummus, and other appetizers are what people that the word "Mediterranean" pull in will recognize, and then hopefully Aloosh can introduce them to dishes like mandi and kabsah, which only rarely make it onto menus even in Anaheim's Little Arabia. The restaurants there are more Levantine and Egyptian than Arabian, but thanks to a few recent Yemeni restaurants opening, the cuisine of the peninsula is gaining notoriety in Orange County.

Thanks also to an LA Times review of the mediocre House of Mandi and growing praise for much better Monasaba in Stanton, dishes like mandi do not have to be so rare. If you live in Los Angeles and would rather not travel to Orange County, do not forget about lovely Soriana Halal Restaurant, which morphed from the now defunct Aldewaniah Restaurant.

Grape leaves

As you are served complimentary hot tea, starters like grape leaves ($4.99, above) and fattoush ($5.99, below) are fresh and have all the right qualities where they should to get going. The grape leaves are zippy from lemon juice and smooth from being drenched in olive oil, filled with rice and spice. Squeeze the included lemon wedge if you want even more pop.

The salad is a mixture of crisp lettuce, cucumber, and tomato topped by crispy fried bread (khubz) and a dusting of sumac. The olive oil dressing is plenty to make this ready to eat, but both the cucumber yogurt and Saudi hot sauce that meals are served with are both lovely when dribbled over the greens and khubz.

Fattoush

While the meats served with mandi are usually wonderful, the word should tip you off to the amazing rice you are about to eat, as it actually refers to the technique of its cooking. The chosen meat is initially boiled with an array of spices, which creates a stock that the basmati is eventually cooked with. This leaves the rice with a complex layering of oils, butters, spices, and meat flavors.

The lamb mandi ($18.99, below) is at the top of the Saudi specialties on the menu and should probably be the introduction to anyone coming here for the first time. When the rice and meat stock is cooking in the tandoor, the meat is suspended above it, and this double technique leads to an ultra-tender and juicy finished product. The lamb here is excellent.

Lamb mandi

Kabsah is the national dish of Saudi Arabia and most countries of the Arabian Peninsula and again refers to the cooking methods, this time a "squeeze" into one pot or vessel. The dish is so popular that you can find pre-mixed kabsah spices at any grocery store in certain countries and neighborhoods where communities abroad have moved.

Unfortunately the baked chicken was off on this night's order of 1/2 chicken kabsa ($16.99, below), but the staff quickly swapped it out for a lamb version that was just as good as the mandi above. A future visit will look forward to enjoying the bird again when done right.

1/2 chicken kabsah

It was obviously just a blip or accident, because the chicken taouk kabab that came as part of the Aloosh Mix ($21.99, below) was probably the favorite of the three kababs included in the meal. This also includes a skewer of beef and kofta, as well as a side salad and small portion of creamy hummus. The meats are laid over basmati with a few grilled vegetables.

A couple slices of pita come with the meal as well as the cucumber yogurt and tomato-based Saudi hot sauce, making a large array of possible bite combinations. The amount of food here is probably enough for two people, or plenty of leftovers for one.

Aloosh Mix kabab plate served with hummus

To make up for the chicken snafu, the staff graciously brought four small pieces of baklava (below) for the group of four to enjoy. There were no hard feelings even before the dessert was brought out, but the warm hospitality of the place should hopefully be a sign that the restaurant will do very well.

They will need more than this of course, since they decided to open far from the comfort of Anaheim's Little Arabia, but hopefully those in search of Mediterranean food will be happy with what they find here in Westminster just off the 405.

Four small pieces of baklava

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