California / Mediterranean/Greek / Restaurants/Bars

Bavel

I knew virtually nothing about DTLA before my recent work trip, but I did know that’s where Bavel was located. And I follow enough LA-based foodies to know that it’s a must-eat. I also know LA folks (my friend, Hart, included) are obsessed with Bestia, the first restaurant from these folks. Like, obsessed. I had high hopes that remained high when I walked into the riad-looking space, dripping with greenery.

Everything is served family style and we ordered most of the menu. And every single thing was good. All of it. Even things I don’t normally go gaga over (babaghanoush) were fabulous. The food is Israeli/Mediterranean focused, which is not always everyone’s bag, but trust when I say everyone will enjoy this place – even Ariana, the self-proclaimed “picky eater” in our group loves this place.

To start we got several items from the spreads section. The hummus was smooth and flavorful, though I wish I got to try the version that was topped with duck nduja. That said, even this “simple” version tasted extra flavorful, thanks to the two versions of chili paste it was served with.

The babaghanoush was outstanding. None of that metallic tang that often turns me off of the dish and eggplant in general. It had a hint of smokiness that made it stand out. The fried pita it came with was unbelievable. It was fluffy and light. We ordered an extra serving of it, and I suggest you do the same.

We also got the farm cheese, topped with a chunky zaatar. I could slather this on anything…but most obviously on that fried pita.

Roasted cauliflower is on many a menu and this one, in a chile sauce with yogurt dip, is a great side to pair with the equally meaty mains. It won’t blow your mind – solely because you’ve probably tasted something similar before – but it is done very well.

The scallop crudo was one of the more interesting cevice-ish dishes I’ve tried. I don’t normally like fruit in savory dishes (and this one is mixed with strawberry), but the cucumber and scallop were so light (and not at all fishy) that it worked.

The oyster mushroom kabab came highly recommended and I understand why. This tasted like shwarma meat. Like actual meat. I could serve this to my beau who refuses to eat vegetarian and he would probably consider this a satisfying meal. Sumac and, maybe, cumin gave it a deep flavor. Like something that’s been roasting on a spit all day.

The whole roasted dorade was tasty and a nice break from the heavy dishes that graced our table. That said, it was spiced with some smoked seasoning so it wasn’t a shy dish, per se. The lamb shwarma, on the other hand, is a beast. At $45, this seems like a very pricy entrée but it’s most certainly not for a single person. It was served with spicy pickled veggies, which may remind you of the Israeli pickles served with the traditional street food but introduce a whole new flavor to the DIY sandwiches.

We were very full and couldn’t bring ourselves to order dessert, opting instead for an extra of their yummy cocktails. I couldn’t eat another bite, which made me sad because there were a few items on the menu we didn’t tackle and with our order as an indication, they were bound to be good. So: yes, Bavel definitely lives up to the hype.

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