Kismet | 4648 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA | kismetlosangeles.com

First, I'd like to apologize for the long hiatus. I've been in the process of changing careers, as well as welcoming our new son to the world. Needless to say, life has been a little hectic (yet absolutely beautiful in every possible way). I promise to start with more reviews in addition to my Insta posts - thanks for following!!

It was Valentine's Day, so the wifey and I decided to go for a day adventure together rather than forcing ourselves to do dinner at some restaurant with an overpriced crappy fix menu. Kismet has been on my radar, and since getting to Los Feliz from the Westside is almost impossible at night, we thought a weekday brunch was absolutely perfect - and it was. 

The brunch menu here is diverse with an emphasis on middle eastern flavors, and very different than what you will see at most places. Lots of dishes are meant for sharing, so come with a big group and try a little bit of everything. Since it was only the two of us on our romantical date-day, we only ordered three things:

Broccoli Toast

First up was a beautiful dish - broccoli toast with labneh, pumpkin seed & citrus. Kismet's rendition of a brunch toast with broccoli was a vision for the eyes - our neighbor ordered it before us, and the entire dining room stops what they're doing to see what is passing by. Who knew broccoli would be so wonderful? The dish comes out cold (surprise!), and you expect it to be a very simple dish - but every bite you take has so many flavors ranging between the citrus, pumpkin seeds, kumquats and labneh. Even though I am extremely opposed (avoiding the word "hate" here) to kumquats, every ingredient here had its reason. I wouldn't necessarily call this a brunch dish, nor would I be satisfied eating broccoli and bread by itself as a meal, but it was a great way to start our meal. 

DishRanker Toast Score: +2

Shakshuka

If there's a shakshuka on the menu, there's a very high probability that I'm ordering it, especially since I'm always in search of the perfect shakshuka here in LA (which doesn't come out of my own kitchen). I find that every restaurant tones down the middle eastern spices when it comes to this dish to appease the gringo palette, and unfortunately, Kismet was no different. The sauce seemed more like a plain tomato sauce (I found bits of celery which explained the sweetness), so I think this dish is more like a eggs in purgatory than shakshuka. I couldn't taste any harissa, east african spices, or any other strong flavors in the sauce. The eggs were also very undercooked, to the point that the whites were even still runny. When you broke the yolks, the eggs would simply become another ingredient in the sauce making the whole thing a watery tomato soup. I prefer my shakshuka eggs a little over medium so there's a contrast in textures between the eggs and the sauce, and something I can eat with a fork.

On the other hand, the barbari bread, which is made by Bub & Grandma's, is life changing. It is the most delicious, soft, and gorgeous piece of barbari bread I've ever had - and barbari was big in our Persian home since it was my mom's favorite. I've begged Bub & Grandma's to let me buy some directly from them, but they said it is made strictly for Kismet - boo to that. 

DishRanker Shakshuka Score: 0 

For our brunch dessert, we chose to go with the flaky bread served with labneh, preserved lemon and honey. I had heard a lot about this flaky bread, and that it was a "can't miss". If you've ever been to Night + Market (and if you haven't, you're basically living on Mars), their beef panang (my favorite dish on the menu next to the Khao Soi) is served some roti, which is eerily similar to this flaky bread. The texture of the bread reminded me of really crispy sangkak bread - but the major problem here was that it was super oily. It was so oily that I had to wipe my hands clean every time I grabbed a piece. The homemade labneh was smooth and delicate, and when mixed with the honey, it made for the perfect way to end our meal (I'm not a fan of lemon curd, so I stayed away from that entirely). If this dish was paired with the barbari bread, it would have been a homerun. 

DishRanker Flaky Bread Score: +1

I was super excited to try out Kismet, but I think it slightly fell short - for brunch at least. I can see this place being a great neighborhood spot to drop in for some coffee and toast, but not worth the long drive to Los Feliz from the Westside. Maybe dinner is better? 

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The Chairman | 1200 E. 5th Street Los Angeles, CA | hailthechairman.com

I'm a sucker for pork buns. Every time I visit NYC, I make it a point to go to Momofuku for Chang's pork belly buns (and also the ridiculous duck). So when I heard that SF transplant opened up shop in trendy Arts District LA, we had to try it out. 

The Chairman has a very basic menu - which I very much appreciate. 4 choice of protein - pork belly, cola pork, spicy chicken, and miso cured tofu. You then get to choose how you want your protein - steamed or baked bun (like a brioche bun), rice bowl, or cold noodle salad. Obviously, I went for the steam buns and some fries.  

The Whole Spread

First up - the Spicy Chicken Steamed Bun. This is the one with the pickled carrots piled into the sandwich giving it some good acidity. The chicken was tasty, but nothing about it was spicy in any way. If you're going to call something spicy chicken, make it spicy chicken. Don't play with my emotions. The bun was exactly what you'd expect. Nothing about this steamed bun blew my mind though. 

DishRanker Steamed Chicken Bun Score: +1

Pork Belly Steamed Bun

Next up was the Pork Belly Steamed Bun - the house speciality. The pork belly was succulent and rich, while the pickled daikon gave the whole thing a good crunch. But again though, I really felt like it was all missing something - some kind of flavor bomb that would smack you in the head with each bite. This had none of that. They could really get crazy with the flavors, but I feel like they purposely made it bland to not offend anyone. 

DishRanker Pork Belly Steamed Bun Score: +1

After we had a taste of the buns, we moved on to the fries, and honestly, they were the best part of our meal. Thick cut Kennebec fries - like the ones you find at Ox & Son - accompanied by ketchup, sriracha, honey mustard, and 1000 island. Can it get any better? 

DishRanker Fries Score: +3

If you find yourself in Arts District, I would not say that this is a go-to place. If you live/work in the neighborhood, and like steamed buns, you have a place now. Other than that, just go for the fries. 

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Barney's Gourmet Burgers | 225 26th St., Santa Monica, CA | barneyshamburgers.com

We found ourselves strolling through the Brentwood Country Mart on Sunday, and decided to grab a bite while perusing through the shops. Barney's Gourmet Burgers is always one of those underrated places that serves a damn good burger, but nobody really gives them much credit. I was going to get a classic cheeseburger until the specials board caught my eye: Salmon Sushi Burger - what?!?

Salmon Sushi Burger

When I saw the description, I just had to order it. Grilled salmon burger topped with pickled cucumber, pickled ginger(?!?), a couple slices of nori, wasabi mustard and solid helping of avocado on a whole wheat bun. I have to say, this was one of the most interesting, and DELICIOUS, burgers I've had in a long time. I don't know if the salmon burger is any different than what they usually offer, but I could see this as a very healthy alternative if you're looking to pig out on a burger. The fact that pickled ginger, and that much of it, was that good on a burger is shocking, and the couple slices of nori also added a deep sea taste that you love when you're eating sushi. This was a very creative salmon burger, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. 

DishRanker Salmon Burger Score: +3

Good work. 

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Gjusta | 320 Sunset Ave., Venice CA | gjusta.com

The first time we went to Gjusta, I was blown away. The flavors coming out of that kitchen are ridiculous. That time, the Classic Banh Mi was damn solid, but waiting abnormally long for a sandwich while sitting on milkcrates was not so much fun. Most recently, I revisited and they've made some drastic changes - tables! However, there are not enough of them for the amount of people that come through this place, so be prepared to stand around waiting for your table (which can come after your food - ugh). On to the food...

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Komodo Pico | 8809 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA | komodofood.com

It started out with a food truck, but my first introduction to Komodo was to this secret gem on Pico near Robertson. A really unassuming storefront surrounded by Kosher markets, butchers, and pharmacies, Komodo pumps out some of the most flavorful and exciting food you could ever think of. 

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Taqueria Los Anaya | 4651 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, CA | taquerialosanaya.com

The need for some serious acupuncture (don't ask) brought me to this neck of the woods. When I left my appointment, I was in serious need of a great lunch. My sources brought me to Taqueria Los Anaya - a small taco joint on the corner of the street. 

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Tony's Pizza Napoletana | 1570 Stockton St., San Francisco, CA | tonyspizzanapoletana.com

San Francisco has always been one of my favorite dining destinations. It's a place where you can find an amazing dish anywhere you go, and every restaurant is doing something to the beat of their own drum. This last trip to San Francisco brought us to a classic staple of Little Italy - Tony's Pizza Napoletana.

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Ox & Son | 1534 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, CA | oxandson.com

I've been to Ox & Son a couple of times for dinner, and have never had a bad meal. The Chicken Fried Duck Confit and the Burger are the epitome of happiness. This time, we came here for brunch, and had another fantastic meal. 

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Trois Familia | 3510 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA | troisfamilia.com

One of the biggest openings of 2015 was Trois Familia, and since I'm such a big fan of Petit Trois (Trois Mec, not so much), I had to try this place. Even though they open up at 10 a.m., we got there at 9:30, and were already the 5th name on the list outside of the door. They seat about 35 people at a time, and as they tell you, it does go quick. Expect people in and out within 40 minutes max. 

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Republique | 624 S. La Brea, Los Angeles, CA | republiquela.com

Republique is one of my favorite brunch spots in town with its perfect list of true brunch items and an entire glass case of the most wonderful pastries every time. We had a holiday party the night before, and some friends from out of town, so Republique was the perfect answer. The brunch line usually starts to pick up by 11:30, so we had to make sure to get there before then. It definitely got longer once we sat. 

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