Open Sesame, a full-service casual Lebanese restaurant, offers delicious food with a contemporary flair on Beverly Boulevard, east of Fairfax Avenue.
The restaurant’s name comes from the famous phrase in “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, a story from “One Thousand and One Nights”. When “open sesame” is announced, a cave opens in which 40 thieves have hidden treasures. At Open Sesame, the restaurant is filled with culinary treasures, such as garlicky fried potatoes, baba ganoush, and falafel patties made of chickpeas, fava beans, garlic, onions, herbs and exotic spices.
Ali Kobeissi, the founder of Open Sesame, opened his first restaurant in Long Beach approximately 14 years ago. It became so popular that Kobeissi had to expand to accommodate the demand. People would drive to Long Beach to enjoy his lamb chops, chicken tawook and beef kabobs, so Kobeissi opened a new Open Sesame restaurant on Beverly Boulevard last October.
Every dish is prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients. Many of the recipes have been in Kobeissi’s family for generations. The restaurant has a full bar, as well as indoor and outdoor seating. Mediterranean light fixtures and tiles adorn the restaurant, and skylights brighten the dining room.
We started by ordering green ice tea with a splash of orange blossom water and mint. The general manager, Alex, recommended a few appetizers, and we chose the signature fried potatoes sautéed with cilantro, garlic, roasted chili and a generous amount of lemon juice. The dish was served with a garlic dipping sauce.
We also tried the grilled halloumi cheese appetizer with slices of watermelon. The white cheese and bright red watermelon resembled fallen dominos, slightly stacked on top of each other. I had never tasted halloumi cheese — a mixture of cow, sheep and goat cheese. It has a higher melting point than many cheeses and is easy to fry, which gives it a slightly golden color and springy texture.
Open Sesame offers three different salads dressed in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, dry mint and sumac — a reddish-purple powder used as a spice to add a lemony taste. It enhances the tabouleh with chopped parsley, bulgar, tomato and fresh mint. It also gives a bit of pizzazz to the fattoush, a Lebanese salad topped with toasted pita chips.
For a sampling of authentic Lebanese delights, we ordered the Open Sesame combo, with a skewer of extra lean ground beef and lamb, cubes of marinated and charbroiled chicken breast served with garlic sauce and wild cucumber pickles. It also comes with a beef kabob prepared with marinated and charbroiled top sirloin steak. The dish is served with basmati rice and either creamy hummus or the smoky garlic baba ganoush made with cooked eggplant and onions, tomatoes, olive oil and seasonings. Both are excellent, however, I love their baba ganoush. Diners can order the dishes from the lunch and dinner menus.
Another lunch favorite is the pita sandwich, with 10 varieties to choose from on the menu. I ordered the fried cauliflower pita sandwich with onion, lettuce, tomato, pine nuts and tahini sauce, which is a paste made from ground sesame seeds, lemon juice, salt and garlic, and then thinned with water. It is one of the most popular toppings for meat and vegetables in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Open Sesame offers a special lunch menu with an entree and salad. The falafel is dynamite and is served with hummus, fattoush, tomato, lettuce, pickled cucumbers and tahini sauce. Three types of paninis are also served, with a choice of charbroiled chicken shawarma cooked on a spit and sliced thinly, or vegetarian labne made with creamy kefir cheese, tomato, fresh mint and olives. They also make a halloumi cheese and cucumber panini.
Be sure to save room for their baklava made with flaky phyllo pastry and pistachios. It pairs well with Lebanese pistachio or almond ice cream. Another tasty treat available is k’naafeh, which is a Lebanese version of sticky toffee pudding cake, made with semolina wheat pastry and sweet cheese or ashta cream, and a sprinkling of orange blossom syrup. It is not as sugary as sticky toffee pudding and is extremely satisfying, and pairs well with Moroccan green hot tea infused with mint and orange blossom. In addition to their delicious teas, a full bar is also available.
Open Sesame offers catering services, with three of four courses served with appetizers, entrees, salads and desserts, starting at $25 per person. Lamb, beef and poultry dishes are available, as well as options for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free guests.
$-$$ Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday. 7458 Beverly Blvd. (323)525-1698.
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