Thursday, April 21, 2011

LA: Sunnin Lebanese and Saffron & Rose Ice Cream

On Saturday night, I walked the few blocks from UCLA's Tiverton House to the Wilshire side of the Hammer Museum, where I met up with Jane.  From there we walked down Westwood for about 10 or 15 minutes until we reached Sunnin Lebanese Cafe; Jane had actually eaten here the night before, but was enthusiastic about returning with me.  This restaurant really doesn't look like much on the outside, but the one big room inside is quite comfortable and airy, with lots of dark wood tables and a semi-open kitchen area.

After checking out the menu, I decided to go straight down the middle with the beef kefta kabab, described as "finely ground beef with chopped onions and parsley, seasoned with a blend of spices, grilled on a skewer served with hommos, rice, Lebanese salad and pita bread."  The kabab reminded me a lot of Persian koobideh, in a good way; the accompanying rice was also somewhat seasoned.  Sunnin's hummus is on the lemony/tangy side and, along with the salad and the radish slices, provided a much-needed contrast to the rich meat.

Jane decided to get one of the specials, ouzi, which is a rice dish served with baked lamb tenderloin and thick yogurt.  I'm not really a fan of lamb, but I definitely liked the rice, which - though kind of oily - was deliciously spiced with cinnamon and pistachios.  Jane managed about half the plate, which was quite admirable considering how enormous the portion was.

After dinner, we walked back along Westwood and stopped in briefly to check out a bakery called Paris Bakery, which has a very pretty display case and will be worth coming back to.  Instead of getting pastries, though, we continued through the stretch of Middle Eastern restaurants and shops and ended up at Saffron & Rose, a very popular Persian ice cream shop.

The owners are more than happy to give a taste tour of their best flavors, which include saffron pistachio, white rose, coconut, and cucumber, and also made a point of telling us that all their ingredients are organic.

I got a small scoop ($3) of saffron pistachio and white rose, and Jane went with saffron pistachio and coconut.  These ice creams are some of the best I've ever had, thanks to the flavors being so intense and fragrant.  Thanks for introducing me to both this ice cream and to Sunnin, Jane!

After visiting two ice cream shops during this LA trip, my verdict is that Diddy Riese's is a great place to spend $1.50 and satisfy a sugar/dairy/baked-goods craving, very close to UCLA's campus, while Saffron & Rose is a great place to spend $3.00 in exchange for some transcendence, if you walk a little farther.  Different solutions for different needs!  I have a feeling I'll be returning to both shops quite often over the next eight years, since I am in fact moving to LA for med/grad school.