Each year the Southern California Restaurant Writers stage an Awards Banquet to honor the best restaurants in Southern California with awards in many different categories. One of the most prestigious awards is Restaurateur of the Year.
This year named as Restaurateur of the Year was Ara Kalfayan, proprietor of the five star Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale. But at the Awards Banquet , held at the Orange Restaurant in Orange , Ara Kalfayan was in Europe and so could not be present to receive his award.
Time went by and there always seemed to be some good reason why we could not get the ribboned medallion award to Ara. But finally this was accomplished with enthusiasm by James Woodin, President of the Restaurant Writers and Ronnie Greenberg, Secretary.
Without question Ara Kalfayan has made Phoenicia one of the best ethnic restaurants in Southern California. Here can be found authentic Eastern Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine which has always been Ara’s hallmark. Decorations include artifact reminders of the ancient seafaring Phoenicians mixing with colorful peach colored linen and napkins. And trust Ara Kalfayan to find some exciting Lebanese wines.
The restaurant features two large outdoor patios, one with a sliding covering roof when weather is less cooperative as well as two elegant dining rooms.
The menu shows appetizers that included Hommos; Labm, Lebanese cream cheese served with garlic; Warak Enab, grape leaves stuffed with rice, oil and vegetables, cooked in lemon juice and olive oil, and Tabbouleh, chopped parsley, crushed wheat, tomatoes and onions.
Some hot appetizers included Kibbeh Makli, beef dumpling stuffed with ground beef; Bourghoul , onions and pine nuts as well as San Bousek, freshly prepared dough with ground beef and pine nuts and Rekakat, a selection of Lebanese cheese baked in a pastry dough.
Our samplers of grill selections included Beef Kafla, ground beef, onions, parsley and spices, grilled on skewers. One of our favorites are the lamb chops marinated with spices and grilled. Also chicken breast kabob, perfectly prepared rice and the best french fries we have had in a long time.
Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale has achieved fame for its Lebanese cuisine but it also has an outstanding cellar of wines from many countries including Lebanon.
One recent evening while dining at this five star restaurant the conversation turned to wine. Through the decades Ara Kalfayan has always been a leader in creating an extensive wine cellar for his wine list. Also he was in the forefront when California restaurants broadened their selection of wines by the glass in the last decades of the 20th century.
Lebanon has a history of making wine for almost six thousand years. Many of its wineries are located in the Bakaa Valley just eighteen miles from Cana where the Bible tells us Jesus turned water into wine.
Most wines from Lebanon show a French influence and the red wines are generally blends of French varietals like Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot. Two of Lebanon native varietals are still to be found, Obaideh and Merwah.
The wine list at Phoenicia is one of a kind featuring wines from all over the world and some from Lebanon that are exclusive to this restaurant. Chateau Kefraya is produced in the Bakaa Valley. Chateau Ksara makes French styled blends and the winery dates back to 1857. Chateau Fakra offers red wines from the Kardebvian Valley north of Berut.
Phoenicia is located at 343 North Central Avenue in Glendale with valet parking. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. except on weekends when with live entertainment there is a 2 a.m. closing time. For more information or reservations call 818 956-7800.
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