Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Itzik Hagadol

Since enjoying one of my favorite meals to date at Israeli restaurant TLV in New York, I have made it my quest to find great Israeli food in Los Angeles. With simple and fresh but diversely flavorful salads and juicy meat kebabs, Israeli cuisine spans many flavor profiles, textures and temperatures and offers a dish to please every palate.

Although my search had thus far yielded only average results, I had high hopes for Itzik Hagadol, a restaurant with two locations--Encino and Tel Aviv. Legit, I say. In fact, the location in Yaffo, Israel preceded the one in the US.

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After being seated, we began to munch on the several kinds of warm bread presented to us--first, two flatbreads brushed with olive oil and then an enormous, puffy, chewy laffa. We were careful, however, to save room for the smorgasboard of salads which brought us to Itzik Hagadol in the first place.

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In Israeli dining, "salads" are not bowls of mixed greens that arrive before one's entree. In fact, these plentiful salads can be meals unto themselves. One order at Itzik Hagadol gives you 20 house salads, Israeli salad and falafel, all of which are refillable ($8.99 with a main course, $17.99 without a main course). For those who want to keep light(er), however, the restaurant also offers an option with 10 house salads rather than 20.

Because we came prepared to eat, J and I both ordered the 20 salads with a kebab. In a matter of moments, every inch of our table was covered with little white dishes, and we regretted even the few bites of bread that were now occupying precious space in our stomachs.

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After our initial bites of each salad, we began the "shuffle," the slightly selfish, completely obvious but time-honored tradition in which we slid those dishes we most enjoyed over to our respective side of the table. For myself, I hoarded a sweet mint and garlic tomato salad, cucumbers with dill, cauliflower with basil and spices, a red cabbage slaw and a tangy, deep mauve-colored eggplant dish.

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Some of the more staple Israeli dishes, however, required sharing. Among these dishes were a crisp tabbouleh and a tasty baba ganoush.

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Another favorite of the night was the traditional Israeli salad with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Each bite provided a satisfying crunch, and the cool flavors were refreshing on their own or atop a piece of bread.

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The falafel at Itzik Hagadol was top notch. Although many restaurants profess their version of these chickpea balls to be the best in Los Angeles, Itzik Hagadol's is a strong contender. Chickpeas are not a particularly flavorful ingredient, but these falafel were surprisingly hearty.

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Just when we thought that our bellies might burst, our entrees arrived.

The distinct flavors of lamb and veal melded quite harmoniously in the rich, tender house kebab. Despite how dangerously full I was growing, I still found myself disappointed when I had eaten of all this delicious kebab.

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J ordered the five-meat kebab and, although he enjoyed it, I could not help but feeling as though he missed out in not ordering the house kebab.

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What began as an attempt to recreate a delicious meal ended up as a dinner that was delicious in its own right. And let's be honest: secretly, everyone enjoys an endless parade of food that quite literally fills every inch of their table.

Itzik Hagadol
17201 Encino Blvd.
Encino, CA 91316
(818) 784-4080

Itzik Hagadol on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

  1. I've wanted to try this for a while now! I love the idea of that Israeli "banchan" (20 salads!!)

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  2. I think this is the same place that Jonathan Gold was talking about on KCRW Good Food a couple weeks ago! I remember him talking about an Israeli place with loads of salads - sounds about right! Yum!

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  3. @Minty: I know! I love getting the little plates! It's one of my favorite things about Korean dining too.

    @Diana: It might be! Loads of salads are kind of the trademark of most Israeli places, though.

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