Saffy’s, another blockbuster from the Bestia and Bavel team

It’s hard to forget Ori Menashe’s hummus after tasting it for the first time. He’s achieved a creamy, squishy texture in chickpeas and tahini, on par with Jöel Robuchon’s famous puree pommes. His mastery of the dip reinvigorated diners’ synapses when he and his wife, pastry chef Genevieve Gergis, opened Bavel in the Arts District in 2018, six years after the blockbuster debut Their nearby Italy.

Ori Menashe, left, and Genevieve Gergis, right, sit in an indoor pavilion.

Restaurant owners Ori Menashe, left, and Genevieve Gergis, right, named Saffy’s for their daughter, Saffron.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Menashe’s talent for the dish has found new ground at Saffy’s, the East Hollywood couple’s new small plate and barbecue restaurant named for their daughter Saffron.

As at Bavel, Saffy’s menu lists two hummus choices. This couple’s flashy includes a simmered fava bean brightened with lemon and fermented serrano peppers; a soft-boiled egg peas on the side as a bonus, halved to reveal the inside and sprinkled with cumin and large granulated salt. It’s an advanced course in subtle contrasts: the way that layered favorite flowers melt into green chickpeas; the interplay of earthy flavors; and how a good olive oil pool can flatten and combine all the ingredients it bathes in.

But then there’s the tahini hummus. A green zhoug decorated with quenelle, the Yemeni hot sauce here is more herbal than scorched, bringing out the tartness Menashe loves. However, the clincher is actually pine nuts dotting the top. The prices of delicate pine cones – long and slender rather than short and small, avocado and the freshest seeds suggestive of resin – have recently skyrocketed. The items used in Saffy’s kitchen, with their crispiness, come from southern Lebanon; Sipping even a few of them in every bite creates a rare treat.

Both versions come with two thick, crispy slices of challah, topped with black and white sesame seeds. I don’t want to see khubz (Arabic flatbread) or traditional pita widely substituted as a side dish, but the thrill of swiping crispy, egg-rich toast over drops of hummus is undeniable. take.

Top view of a bowl of hummus tahini on a wooden table.

Hummus tahini, made with smoked paprika, Lebanese pine nuts, green zhoug, olive oil and challah.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Patrons dine at Saffy's in-house restaurant.

Saffy’s patrons sit down to order an early dinner.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Details like these make for another Saffy win for Menashe and Gergis.

When the restaurant opened in early June, focusing on barbecue with about a dozen California-style salads and entrees, it seemed the duo were striving for something more casual among the crowd. their growing businesses. The Art Deco space in the Merrick Building – which houses the briefly imported Five Leaves tree in Brooklyn and is located across from the “Big Blue” building of the Church of Scientology – has a slightly more intimate atmosphere than siblings. of it, that’s right. This is a smaller room, although just as noisy as the others; a recently installed awning that stretches near the curb has added significant, quieter outdoor seating.

Really, however, this place roars with ambition. That’s evident in the team of single chefs, their foreheads covered with multicolored headbands, Menashe’s signatures, and the craftsmanship of the wait staff, many of whom have worked at Bestia. or Bavel for many years. There is no mistaking the precision of the cooking to bring out the rich, spicy flavors of West Asia (aka the Middle East, although many friends and colleagues from the region increasingly oppose it). for this term) and North Africa.

Grayson Hestir prepares cocktails at the bar.

Grayson Hestir prepares cocktails at the bar.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

One could argue about how “normal” might best be defined these days; I certainly wouldn’t label Saffy as cheap. Overall, Menashe and Gergis don’t seem quite capable of building a restaurant that is simple, comfortable, and vocal. It is largely to our benefit.

The corner of Fountain Avenue and North Catalina Street is where to be in Los Angeles in mid-2022. You can see crowds filling the sidewalks from blocks away. Join them. Soon you’ll be screaming in conversation between the pink and earthy tones of the dining room – the gilded geometries of the stalls and the lights recall the glamorous magazine stills of Beirut or Marrakesh in their 1960s era – or breathe a little easier at an outside table. Cocktails, such as tequila infused with cherry lime or Vesper with rose water and lemon balm, come on quickly and often disappear quickly.

A grilled lobster skewer on a white plate, served with green harissa, serrano-lemon yogurt and cilantro.

A grilled lobster skewer, served with green harissa, serrano-lemon yogurt and coriander.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

If you know Bavel, you’ll recognize the same overall recipe at Saffy’s: a pack of flavors that showcase the couple’s upbringing (the Gergis family has Egyptian roots; Menashe grew up in Israel and also has roots in the couple’s upbringing. Turkey and Morocco), meat cooked on firewood, California inspiration.

Salads go well with hummus. A small chunk of smoked eggplant puree contains a pile of juicy chopped tomatoes dotted with milky feta and nigella seeds; Cinnamon shimmers in the distance like heat rising to the horizon. The preserved Meyer lemons and woody sweetness of ras el hanout bring out the familiar combination of carrots and yogurt.

Break open falafel; It is the green of a Japanese tea garden in the glorious spring. The appetizer was grilled lobster that was skewered on a skewer as a prelude to the cooking courses ahead. Blended with green harissa and lemon-scented yogurt without overpowering the sweetness of the lobster, it’s a $32 price tag…and the most appealing use of expensive seafood I’ve ever tasted. consumption in this decade.

Perhaps at first you might as well balk at the cost of the shawl. It costs 26 dollars. Entering the restaurant, you can’t help but notice the open kitchen in the center of the vertical stage, slowly spinning as the glowing logs wash away the meat in smoke and fire. Chefs shaved strips of beef and lamb, wrapped them in thin coffee leaves spread with tahini and red ajika (a mildly spicy Georgian bell pepper jam) and layered them with tomatoes, onions and a leaf. single, unpretentious salads. The composition sings like a choir. I love shawarma in all iterations. This earns its place.

Green falafel plate with falafel pieces broken open to reveal the green inside.

Green falafel plate – opened, vibrant green inside exposed.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

For barbecue, choose lamb, chicken, beef, or pork. I like the lamb, which fluctuates between a fragrant version of black pepper and cardamom with raised veins of parsley and onion, and a richly flavored variant with dried mint and marjoram and Lightened by minced sweet peppers. For a completely different spice angle, try chicken shashlik with musk of dry spices: cumin, fenugreek, sumac and cinnamon. The waiter will guide you to slide the meat off the heavy, sword-sharp skewers using the laffa as an edible oven, although the bread itself may initially scorch the fingers. Discreet personnel remove metal spikes immediately; “House of the Dragon” is not recommended.

Kebabs come with an array of very Angeleno condiments: tahini salad with skins made with Green Goddess sauce; vibrant, colorful orange amba mix runs atop like a fleeing mango pickle lava; and a small cup of tea flavored with crimson pepper. You can lose yourself trying so many different flavors and textures. You hope to emerge like me every meal.

Ori Menashe carves the shawarma out of the spit.

Ori Menashe removes the shawarma from the spit.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Among the wide assortment of mains to share, a $65 “kebab” combines influences from Turkey and Pakistan to create a dish of roast beef and lamb, topped with meat. minced lamb to create textured nuances. Radish, onion petals and sliced ​​tomatoes have been sprinkled on the meat; Turmeric rice and yogurt make a complete meal. It’s tempting, and I’d say come first for shawarma and kebabs and try this on a second or third visit. I feel the same way about the light pickled fish tagine served with coconut rice.

Desserts, admittedly run-of-the-mill, include a range of light seasonal ice creams (peach and raspberry are popular summer treats) and orange blossom caramel crème. A handsome slice of chocolate cake, crowned with precise, generous ganache proportions, lands at almost every table.

Red snapper tagine with tomato, ginger, turmeric, potato, serrano, cilantro and served with coconut rice.

Red snapper tagine with tomato, ginger, turmeric, potato, serrano, cilantro and served with coconut rice.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Gergis and Menashe plan to start day service at Saffy’s, and next door they’ve opened a coffee, tea, and a handful of cupcakes. Among the pretzels, spiced potato cakes and blueberry coffee cakes, the original standout was the short, crunchy buttermilk biscuits, savory with ham, cheese and aioli mustard or sweetened with butter and berry jam. Challah bread served with hummus is also available.

The bakery attracts an intermittent flow of customers to date. It gives Gergis and Menashe something to strive for, as their newest restaurant – predictable in terms of their track record – reaches the pinnacle of power almost instantly.


4845 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, (424) 699-4845,

Price: Appetizer $9-$32, barbecue $18, larger format piping $26-$65, dessert $10-$12.

Details: The restaurant is open from 5-11 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. The coffee and tea shop is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

Recommended dishes: hummus tahini, tomato salad, falafel, lobster skewers, shawarma, roast lamb, chocolate cake. Saffy’s, another blockbuster from the Bestia and Bavel team

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