>> Kobee Factory and Syrian Kitchen | Eat the World Los Angeles

Wednesday 15 February 2023

Kobee Factory and Syrian Kitchen

Oxford Street facade

๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡พ SYRIA
๐Ÿ“ 14110 Oxnard Street, Van Nuys, San Fernando Valley
๐Ÿ…ฟ️ A few spots in front
๐Ÿฅค No Alcohol
๐ŸŒฑ Vegetarian Friendly

If you are driving in the Valley these days and see a plume of smoke rising over the next block, it is often a good idea to slow down from your highway cruising speeds and prepare to pull over for one of many Armenian barbecue stands that seem ubiquitous. But on this section of Oxnard Street the smoke is more likely to be the byproduct of an automotive repair shop, seen in all directions surrounding this restaurant, which acts like a bit of an oasis.

When Kobee Factory and Syrian Kitchen opened in late 2014, it immediately became a place much of the Syrian community of the San Fernando Valley came to for sustenance and home cooking. This love found in its cooking was later revealed to the rest of Los Angeles through the generous article the late Jonathan Gold wrote in 2017 for the Los Angeles Times.

Interior of restaurant with signs and photos

Next to the Norias of Hama, the proprietor's photo with the smiling food writer still hangs on the wall, a bit faded along with many of the subsequent articles that came waxing nostalgic about this mostly takeout shop in Van Nuys. A more recent Times Valley map from 2019 and "Best of the Southland" award from 2022 have more color left in them and show the longevity of the restaurant.

If you are coming to Kobee Factory on your own, plan to properly sit down and enjoy your food at its freshest. They do a good job cutting holes in packaging to reduce steaming, and keep the hummus away from the hot items, but unlike a platter of kebabs and rice, much of the food here is better immediately. The fresh salad will be crisp, and that hummus will be smooth and excellent if it only has to travel from the kitchen to your table.

Overhead photo of four takeout items

Before moving onto the main entrees, you may notice a couple breakfast items like fatee ($9.99, above top left), which loads hummus and chickpeas on a bed of thin pita shards. After recently enjoying this a lot at Nawal, just the sight of it on a menu led to an intense craving. Mix in the spices on top before enjoying and you will wonder why there is a full aisle of breakfast cereal boxes at every supermarket in the country.

As Gold describes in his article, there are many ways to say the namesake food depending on the country or region you are saying it in, but the family here say "kobee" to describe theirs. Even Wikipedia transliterates this word as "kubbi" when talking about the Syrian version, but Angelenos are probably more familiar with it written as "kibbeh." The city of Aleppo was always famous for having two dozen or so varieties of preparations of the dish, and a few of these are available here in Van Nuys.

Kobee barbecue with side salad, hummus, and pitas

The first on the menu is called kobee barbecue ($16.99, above), grilled hockey puck-sized discs of ground beef mixed with and surrounded with bulgur before hitting the grill. The mixture inside is nutty and citrus-y, and has the subtle essence of cinnamon and other spices. The kobee fried ($16.99, not shown) comes as the more familiar fat teardrops put in the deep fryer, but regardless of which you choose also grab a small yogurt salad ($5.99, not shown) for dipping.

Gold wrote off the shawarma without much thought in his review, but in the years since quite a few reviewers who spent parts of their life in Syria had much better things to say. It is certainly not guaranteed for success, but "Food X takes me straight back to Place Y" in a review always raises excitement levels. On a recent visit, a chicken shawarma wrap ($10.99, below) was unavoidable due to cravings, and was even better than expected after reading these good things.

Chicken shawarma wrap, shown cut in half

The sandwich is decidedly juicy with garlic sauce and the drippings of the pickles and tomatoes. This is all well contained by the house-made bread, which reads somewhere between a cross of thin pita and roti, both strong and delicious. This is one of the best chicken shawarma wraps enjoyed in recent years, and will be hard to resist on follow-up visits to Kobee Factory.

Success can sometimes be fleeting for restaurants, a rush of business always follows important exposure but eventually calms back down for most places. Thankfully the mother and daughter chefs of this Syrian kitchen took it all in stride and never changed their process. Nine years after first opening, the food is as good as ever and only seems like it will continue this way in the future.


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